Some friends convinced me to go to a casino recently, I think maybe the third time I have been in my 60 years. The idea of giving someone my money for no reason just doesn’t appeal to me. Although I didn’t put any money down, I’ll admit it was fun to watch people I know lose their money. Spirit of competition and all that.
Two bright gentlemen showed off their “systems” at the roulette tables. One system involved betting on pretty much every number. That person was able to maintain a large pile of chips that took some time to dwindle to zero. Another “system” involves establishing a “lucky number” and then betting both sides of it in a “wedge.” It’s all very scientific.
With both systems, it seemed very important to know the term, double down. Winning? Double down. Losing? Double down! One lost his money very quickly, the other took longer, but he too lost his money. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone with a basic understanding of math. A winning number pays 35-1 and the wheel shows numbers up to 36. Seems fair unless you note that there is a zero and double zero on the wheel too. That means your chances of winning are 37-1, and a winner pays only 35-1. A small, but important difference that means the House always wins in the end.
The odds don’t matter though, because this was admittedly fun (at least when it wasn’t my money being lost.). There are bright lights, big crowds, cheap drinks, exciting sounds, and plenty of cheering “winners.” There are no clocks and no windows, and this must be the only place left in the country where you can smoke. Anything goes! Who cares about statistics and facts and odds and math?
Who cares indeed, as this same casino mentality has entered our political environment. Statistics are boring, facts aren’t facts, truth is what I feel; who needs math? Say what you want, the more provocative the better, and hope no one does the math. Math is boring, but wild statements and accusations are the bright lights, ringing bells and cheap drinks of politics. These candidates count on people not stepping away from the table and critically considering what they are saying. When a small confrontation broke out at the casino roulette table, I’ll paraphrase a non-gambling friend who said dryly, “it’s just math boys, nothing to get upset about.”
At KASB, we do math. Ted Carter and Mark Tallman are not casino pit bosses with green eyeshades and sleeve garters, but they do spend some time hunkered down with spreadsheets. When a casino candidate makes a dramatic claim with no basis in fact, then doubles down when it is revealed to be false, Ted and Mark don’t ring bells, buy drinks, or flash lights. They just do math. Too many administrators in Kansas schools? Let’s do the math- Kansas is below the national average for the number of administrators in schools. Schools also have fewer employees in management roles than business and industry. It’s just math boys, nothing to get upset about.
Seventy-five percent to the classroom? A specious argument with ill-defined terms. Just like those bright lights and cheap drinks, it sounds good, but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Shouldn’t we talk about how Kansas educators support student learning to achieve above average results at below average costs? It’s just math boys.
Someone else who does math is Dr. Lori Taylor, Professor of Economics at Texas A & M University. Dr. Taylor is a well-known conservative academic who was paid $240,000 to study Kansas school finance. Economist Taylor found that Kansas Schools are among the most efficient in America and need to spend more to properly educate students. Dr. Taylor’s study was validated by another study for which the legislature paid $40,000. Doing math can be profitable!
Casinos are fun and entertaining. Making up numbers makes for great sounds bites and media attention. When it comes to my money, and our Kansas kids, I suggest we just do the math.