Alarm at young blacks' detention

This article could be a basis for discussion in a social science class as well as a mathematics class. It demonstrates the need for statistical literacy as a part of the numeracy levels required across the curriculum.

The figures quoted for the likelihood of indigenous children aged 10 to 17 being held in custody translate into the following conditional probability statement:

Similar statements can be made for each of the states and territories given figures later in the article.

Students should discuss what further information they need to gain a full understanding of the depth of the problem. Factors like 21 and 41 are quite dramatic and are likely to have been chosen by the report writer to have maximum impact on the reader (and politicians).

It would appear from the second last paragraph of the article that the information is based on a survey of the detention centres taken on June 30, 1996. This means that while 285 indigenous children aged 10-17 were in custody we do not know how many indigenous children aged 10-17 there are in the country. A call to the Bureau of Statistics (and the people there are very helpful!) produced the figure of 48,166 Aborigines in Australia aged 10-17 in the year involved. With this extra information many interesting questions can be posed. Letting students themselves pose the questions is the best option and then they might discuss why the figure 48,166 was not included in the original article.

Possible questions using the extra information include the following.

Where to next?

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