“Math for Journalists”

By Christine Wolstenholme

“Math for Journalists” is the first NewsU course I’ve ever taken.  The class was put together and instructed by Debbie Wolfe, the Technology Training Editor at the St. Petersburg Times.

 The course description says: “This course covers everything from reducing fractions and other math essentials to topics specifcally for journalists, such as calculating costs of living and estimating crowd sizes.”  The course did just that.

It first started with “Refreshers,” which was a quick reminder to terms and syntax, order of operations and fractions.

The course offered a complete definition, description and example for each math term.

The second part of the course was “Backgrounders.”  In this section it offered you “warm up exercises” in multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.  It also gave a list of their best websites that offer useful numeracy content.

The next part of the course actually began teaching. The first subject was “Percents of all kinds,” and it broke it down into 3 sections: “Percent change,” “Percent total,” and “Percentage point vs. %.” The course went into detail about the differenced of these 3 sections and how to find them. The course offered multiple ways to come up with an answer and how to check your answer. It also gave example problems and mini exercises to do, to see if you understood what you were learning.

The rest of the course followed in this manner, teaching things like: “Average & more,” which taught the difference between mean, median and mode. “Number Relationships,” which taught the difference between ration, rank and rate. And then there was “Advanced topics,” which taught how to find the cost of living, weighted averages and how to estimate crowds.

“Math for Journalists” offers some quick, easy and basic guidelines for the types of math journalists should be familiar with.  It was easy and it was helpful.


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