Let’s hear it for Idaho!  The Spud State has a problem with history – and with math.

The initial story is that the head of public schools demonstrated some new technology, where the “students” (in this case, legislators) could each answer questions using a polling device.  Each person answers the question and the summary can be displayed for everyone to see.  This is great stuff, and can show the teacher when they need to pay more attention to certain topics.

The topic was history.  17% didn’t know when Idaho became a state, and 15% didn’t know the name of the state’s first capital.  A fun time, a good show of technology, and a bit of a chance to poke fun at the elected officials.  A little more personal than a dunking booth, but somewhere along those general lines.

The story behind the story is that there were 27 legislators taking the quiz.  That means that each person makes up a bit under four percent of the total.  So let’s work up to the answer.  The second one, where 15% got it wrong, probably means that there were four wrong answers.  That comes out to 14.81 percent, which rounds up nicely to 15% for a newspaper article.

It’s the first one that’s problematic.  We can’t get to 17% without splitting people.  When we go from 4 to 5 wrong answers, the percentage swings up to 18.51 percent, which should be rounded up to 19%.  It could arguably be rounded down to 18%.  But neither one is the 17% reported by the Associated Press.  Boo, hiss.

Also boos and hisses on the places that ran the AP story without understanding it: the Washington Post, KIVI TV in Boise, Forbes, the Spokesman-Review from Spokane, the Lewiston Tribune, and KTVB in Boise.  Shame!

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