The power of percent

Watson, Jane & English, Lyn D. (2013) The power of percent. Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 18(4), pp. 14-18.


Which statistic would you use if you were writing the newspaper headline for the following media release: "Tassie’s death rate of deaths arising from transport-related injuries was 13 per 100,000 people, or 50% higher than the national average”? (Martain, 2007). The rate “13 per 100,000” sounds very small whereas “50% higher” sounds quite large. Most people are aware of the tendency to choose between reporting data as actual numbers or using percents in order to gain attention. Looking at examples like this one can help students develop a critical quantitative literacy viewpoint when dealing with “authentic contexts” (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2013a, p. 37, 67).

The importance of the distinction between reporting information in raw numbers or percents is not explicitly mentioned in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics (ACARA, 2013b, p. 42). Although the document specifically mentions making “connections between equivalent fractions, decimals and percentages” [ACMNA131] in Year 6, there is no mention of the fundamental relationship between percent and the raw numbers represented in a part-whole fashion. Such understanding, however, is fundamental to the problem solving that is the focus of the curriculum in Years 6 to 9. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness of the opportunities to distinguish between the use of raw numbers and percents when comparisons are being made in contexts other than the media. It begins with the authors’ experiences in the classroom, which motivated a search in the literature, followed by a suggestion for a follow-up activity.

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ID Code: 67570
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Percentage, Probability, Primary school
ISSN: 1326-0286
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development (130202)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Teacher Education & Leadership
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers Inc.
Deposited On: 20 Feb 2014 23:19
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2014 14:07

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