Un­der­stand the num­bers, re­late them to a formula

Financial Times USA - - LETTERS -

Sir, In re­sponse to David Lang (Let­ters, May 15), we run an after-school science club for our lo­cal pri­mary school. We plot num­bers on to graphs, which re­veals the un­der­ly­ing shape (ge­om­e­try) of the re­la­tion­ship and then we get them to find the formula their num­bers re­late to.

The pur­pose of num­bers is to re­veal truth and al­low pre­dic­tions, Es­sen­tial to that is some un­der­stand­ing of their re­la­tion­ship to a formula. Sell­ers go out of busi­ness if they do not un­der­stand how to cal­cu­late mar­gin. Book­ies go out of busi­ness if they can­not cal­cu­late odds. Modern big data al­low more ef­fec­tive tar­get­ing of cus­tomers.

Num­bers re­veal geo­met­ric re­la­tion­ships (if there is one). Formula de­ter­mine the un­der­ly­ing truth and al­low you to make pre­dic­tions. Ac­counts with­out ge­om­e­try and al­ge­bra is an ex­er­cise in book­keep­ing. It may keep fraud at bay, but it says noth­ing about how to main­tain the health of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, or the ar­eas on which it should fo­cus its ef­forts. It is a huge shame that so many peo­ple still think these are op­tional skills. Les­ley El­lis Cro­mar Fu­ture Group Tar­land, Aberdeen­shire, UK

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