Journalists need for math skills prompts profs new book
June 18, 2002
OXFORD, Miss. Journalists are known to joke that they would be engineers or scientists if they could simply do the math.
Just for them, University of Mississippi assistant professor Kathleen Wickham has written the book Math Tools for Journalists.
Math is something we learned in middle school. We cant assume that we remember all the steps, said Wickham, a New Jersey native with daily newspaper experience.
Todays reporters and editors deal every day with mathematics from local government budgets to basic statistics and practical arithmetic. Wickham said the handy, 160-page guide was written in part to address her own math-skills weaknesses, which she rediscovered as a doctoral student taking a statistics course. I just got tired of being stupid, she said.
Each chapter uses a news story to illustrate a specific, real need to use math. My goal is for this book to be used in journalism classrooms to improve the math literacy for future journalists, and in newsrooms to improve math skills in the professional ranks, said Wickham, who joined the UM faculty three years ago, after a decade of teaching at the University of Memphis.
With a masters degree in journalism and a doctorate in instructional technology, she teaches media writing, ethics and graduate research methods. Her first book focused on online journalism.
Peter Mattiace, a Colorado journalist, is one of the first to purchase the new book. You dont have to be a rocket scientist to be a journalist, but it often helps, he said. Good reporters, and good and bad numbers sometimes just dont mix. So, whether you have to figure a tax increase in Nowhere Township, a dip in the unemployment rate or how Enron lost all that money all that fast you need Professor Wickhams book before you start. Its as simple as 1, 2, ah, 3.
Her first educational order came from the journalism program at Northwestern University. Wickham anticipates interest from other university journalism programs, because new national accrediting standards call for improved student math skills.
Shell also be part of national panels on math in classrooms and newsrooms during conferences by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
She said she dedicated the book to her two sons. The younger one even helped cook meals. His college tuition is coming from this, she said.
For more information about Wickhams book, contact Marion Street Press at 708-445-8330 or www.marionstreetpress.com.
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