Saturday, June 13, 2009

Do The Math. Please.

Can someone please teach the NBC producers how to do basic math? Last Sunday, Nightly News ran a story about the great bargains that are available on Chrysler cars because of their bankruptcy and impending merger with Fiat. Michael Okwu gave us a few examples of these great deals. He told us that a Chrysler Town & Country with a sticker price of $29,455 could be bargained down to $25,054, a savings of 18%. Wrong. That's actually a 15% savings. Okwu then told us that a Chrysler 300 LX with a sticker price of $27,415 could be purchased for $22,527, a 22% savings. Wrong again. That figure represents an 18% savings. Finally, Okwu told us that a Dodge Ram with a sticker price of $23,525 could be bargained down to $17,744, a 33% savings. Not even close. That would actually be a savings of only 25% off the sticker price. It is appalling that no one at Nightly News can do these basic calculations. No wonder children in the U.S. are lagging far behind children of other countries in math skills.

Here's a basic tutorial for the Nightly News producers. If you want to calculate a percentage drop, the first step is to divide the smaller figure by the larger figure. The next step is to subtract the resulting number from 1 to yield the final answer. Here's an easy example: Imagine an item with a regular price of $100 is reduced to $80. 80 divided by 100 is .8. And 1 - .8 = .2, so that would represent a 20% savings. In the case of the Dodge Ram, that would mean first dividing $17,744 by $23,525. That gives us .7543 (rounding off to four places). And doing the second step, 1 - .7543 = .2457, or 24.57%. And that's the savings amount as a percentage. It's pretty easy, actually. Next week, I'll show the Nightly News producers how to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators.

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