Rising car thefts hit battlers


The rates, percentages and actual numbers of car thefts provided in this article offer many opportunities to hone basic numeracy skills. Doing this in an applied context is better than only doing number calculations because once out of school it is the application in a social context which will be necessary. This also shows the close relationship of statistical literacy (the ability to interpret and check information based on statistics) to numeracy.

Students could be asked to devise their own questions (with answers) to give to other students, or could be asked to solve problems similar to the following:

  1. How is the claim of "about 350 cars stolen a day" achieved from data in the rest of the article? [This requires literacy, numeracy and reasoning skills based on working backward once one reaches the third last paragraph. 126,000 thefts / 365 days = 345.2 thefts per day on average, which is "about 350".]
  2. What percentage increase has occurred in car thefts in Australia over the past 20 years? [ From the same paragraph one must consider the dates to realise it has been 20 years. Asking about the percentage increase is potentially more difficult than asking about how many times more cars have been stolen. The answer to the latter question would be 126,000 / 56,000 = 2.25 times more cars stolen. This translates to an increased percentage of 125% since the first 56,000 in the measurement division into 126,000 is the number with which the percentage is being calculated. This is an intuitive approach.]
  3. What was the percentage increase in car thefts in Tasmania in the same period? [2528 / 1024 = 2.47 so the increase in Tasmania was 147%, greater than the national increase.]
  4. What do you need to know to work out the number of cars stolen per 100,000 people in Tasmania which is claimed by the last paragraph to be the lowest rate in Australia? [The population of the state.]
  5. Assuming that the population of Tasmania is 500,000, what is the number of cars stolen per 100,000 people in 95-96? [This is a basic ratio question:

2528 car thefts/500,000 people = ? car thefts/100,000 people

which is intuitively solved by dividing 2528 by 5 (505.6 or just over 500 per 100,000 people).]

  1. Students could discuss what the answers to these questions might mean in terms of trends and Tasmania's position as lowest on the car theft rate scale.


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