Questions this assignment addresses: How can we use numbers to understand our past? You will read, use websites and a spreadsheet, answer questions, and submit your answers to the dropbox Numbers I.
Play the game. Do you understand why you should always switch?
If not, go to http://webs.wofford.edu/bednarjt/monty/montyhall.html for an explanation.
Let’s tackle that one word at a time, backwards. Statistics matter because we use numbers to measure our lives, whether it’s the dollars in our bank account, the number of friends we have on facebook, or how full a glass is (half full?) Increasingly, statistics are used to convince us in the truth of an argument. Yet, without a basic understanding of statistics, people often fall back into the cynicism that all numbers lie. Numbers are just information, and just as we apply the PISA test to sources, so too can we apply certain standards for what is a credible statistic.
Why do statistics matter to history? Numbers show us trends, that is up or down, in parts of our lives that are important. How much food, per person, does one society provide over time? How is income distributed to a people, mostly to the rulers, or does every group have a sizable chunk? As well, numbers let us compare groups that are fare apart from each other in geographic or temporal terms. Did the Han Chinese of 100 CE have greater economic output than the Holy Roman Empire in Europe of 100 CE? Statistics matter because we can see trends (changes over time) and comparisons.
To start, let’s deal with a simple concept: an average. There are three types of averages, the mean, median, and model.
For a text definition of these terms, see http://www.mun.ca/educ/ed4361/virtual_academy/campus_a/losinskim/mean,median,mode.html
Questions: Let’s say a large village had 25 people die in a single year. Below is the age of each deceased villager.
As a historian, when you see the word “average” you always need to ask if it’s the mean, median, or mode and is that the most useful average for understanding the past.
If you’d like more help understanding mean, median, and mode, you can see a video here.
For the next part of the lesson, you need access to a spreadsheet program. You can also use Microsoft Excel or Mac Numbers if those programs are already on you computer. on your computer you’re all set. If you don’t you’ll need to do one of two things:
Below is what Excel looks like on a Mac.
Once you’ve opened that up, you’ll want to open a file from OneDrive. Your page will look similar, but not exactly like this one.
Download the “Historical Statistics for the World Economy, 1–1500 CE”to your computer and
Upload the file into the OneDrive, so you can open it in Excel Online.