Recently, I had an email conversation with my Statistical Climatology teaching assistant (quite an important person, as she controls my grades!). We talked about Innumeracy, the book by John Allen Paulos.
His, unfortunate, conclusion is that most people are mathematically challenged. Not knowing math leaves them less capable of dealing with the world around them.
Out of curiosity, I asked some folks at work to tell me the relationship between a million and a billion. Not many knew it was 1:1,000.
Since our government is now throwing billions and even trillions around (a trillion is 1,000 billion or a million million) it seems like this is something we should know.
Flash forward to this past weekend. My friend Bob called me on IM and sent a link to an article in Time Magazine about America’s problems with weight and obesity. On the first page was a chart which said Americans eat “600 Billion Big Macs a year.”
Wow. That’s a lot… something like 2,000 apiece per year. Obviously, we’ve got a problem here. That number’s wrong.
Thanks for writing to us about TIME’s Oct. 20 cover story and the figure of how many Big Macs are consumed by Americans each year. It appears in the online version as 600 billion, but that’s not accurate. The correct figure of 600 million appears in the print edition of the magazine.
We appreciated hearing from you. Sorry for any confusion.
Don’t be sorry to me. Feel sorry for all the people who looked at that stat, wrong as it was, and never realized what that number meant.