Correlation or Causality?

27 07 2007

12976932_e0c51fd783_m1.jpgIn the largest Swedish newspaper today there is an article about mathematics making you a better student. I’m quite surprised that the journalist doesn’t seem to have a clue about the difference between correlation and causality.

According to the journalist, the research showed that students that attended three years of math in high school had better grades in biology, chemistry, and physics at the university. The question is: does three years of math make you a better student, or do better students (more motivated, smarter, more supported from home, etc.) to a higher degree choose three years of math? If you ask this question it might not be a question of causality, but of correlation.

In my high-school, all the motivated students selected certain subjects, while all the slackers chose others ? just because the subjects had a reputation for being a slacker subject, or a hard-worker-subject.

So there was a correlation between being a hard worker and choosing certain subjects, not necessarily a causality between attending certain subjects and becoming a better student.

Please, DN, before putting something on the first page, get your argumentation straight.

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