Friday, February 10, 2006

Calculator, please

Take a look. Can you spot the error?


As you can see from the above, the school for which I work needs a calculator tune-up. This was brought to my attention by a student researching a story.

Did you spot the error (no peeking below for the answer)? There's an obvious way to question it, but also a common-sense way that's a little less direct (but still valuable to think about).

We have reported it to the math police, who assure us the page will be fixed and that the offenders' differentials will be integrated.

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Easy way:
If Stafford Loans total $792 million alone, how can the entire total for loans be just $112 million?

What if the school had not helpfully provided us with a total that's out of whack with what is above it? That figure for Stafford loans should still ring the common-sense warning bell. A total $792 million divided by slightly more than 17,000 students is almost $46,438 per student. Now, I know college is expensive, but that seems a tad on the high side for a state school even if you were financing 90 percent of your education on your own.

Training yourself in the common-sense way is valuable to spot those gremlins for which there isn't always a helpful "total" line.

The correct figure, based on the total loans, is $92,043,474. Somehow that ghost "7" snuck in.

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