Math Tools for Journalists: ‘Directional Measurements’

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So much of the simple math we learn in middle school and high school is often cast aside and regarded as unnecessary for those of us aspiring to be writers or journalists. After all, how important are the formulas for finding distance, time and ratio when your writing features, right? But the success of a story often lies in the details. Skewed data, wrong numbers or just a general lack of information can severely discredit you as a journalist. Math skills are important whether or not we want to admit it it.

In her book, “Math Tools for Journalists,” Dr. Kathleen Woodruff Wickham discusses the importance of “directional measurements” and provides several quick and easy formulas for calculating simple math. Sometimes it is not enough to simply report an event. Readers want DETAILS. And statistics, polls, surveys, data, distances, times or rates can help a reader grasp the bigger picture.

Wickham also gives some tips on the accurate way to distinguish between speed and velocity and speed and acceleration. Speed measures rate, while velocity measures rate in addition to indicating direction. Acceleration is the “instantaneous speed.” Acceleration is a big word that indicates the increase or decrease of speed. Another easy, but important formula to remember is average speed.

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1 comment
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