Holy Cross Professor on Understanding the Big Numbers in the News

The Conversation
November 20th, 2017 by 

Prof. Andrew Hwang of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Prof. Andrew Hwang of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science Photo by: Tom Rettig

In a charmingly informative article for The Conversation, associate professor of mathematics and computer science Andrew Hwang shows readers how to “use school arithmetic, common knowledge and a little imagination to train your emotional sense for the large numbers shaping our daily lives.”

Accurately comparing large quantities can be made much simpler with effective analogies, Hwang writes. “On a scale where a million dollars is one penny, the AIG bailout cost taxpayers $1,250. The Panama Papers document at least $200,000 missing from the world economy. On the bright side, we recovered $1.65 in executive bonuses,” the math professor writes.

Hwang goes on to say, “The root cause of our economic plight looms in plain sight when we know the proper scale on which to look.” By breaking issues down into more manageable concepts “we become better citizens, avoiding squabbling over pennies when tens of thousands of dollars are missing.”

Read the full piece at The Conversation.

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