For example, Bialik’s columns have shown that we do not know for sure that 330 family farms disappear each week, an oft-cited statistic. (The stat "was based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, which conducts a farm census every five years," Bialik noted. "NASS's 2002 census, its latest, found nearly 87,000 fewer farms than in the previous census, in 1997—working out to 334 fewer farms each week. But of the total, only 13,000 were individual or family farms, working out to 50 per week").
We also do not know that one in five children has been sexually solicited online. ("Here's a more accurate use of the statistic that we'll likely never see in an advocacy ad: Five years ago, one in five children—ranging from fifth graders to high school seniors—who used the Internet at least once a month said in a telephone survey that they'd received an online sexual solicitation, according to research paid for by advocates of the issue. Solicitations were broadly defined to include 'unwanted' sexual talk, whether from someone they knew or a stranger, or any sexual talk with someone over 18. Only 24 percent of the solicitations came from people who identified themselves as adults; the bulk of the remainder came from other minors, or those purporting to be under 18.")
Nor do we know that low-income children get only 25 hours of shared reading time with their parents before starting school, whereas middle-income kids get 1,000 to 1,700. As he points out, this latter number comes from the personal experience of one mom, Marilyn Jager Adams, who, in a 1990 book, estimated that was the amount of time she spent reading with her son John. "That's akin to predicting that all young children from middle-income families will graduate college with a degree in psychology and statistics, as John, now 23, has done," Bialik wrote in the 2007 column.
It's a refreshing change of pace, Grueskin says, in a world where many journalists "don't know anything about math" and see that as a "badge of honor."
Bialik, likewise, sees the column as a great way to "finally use the math and physics education and interest I've had." He plans to stay in journalism at least for awhile—"so long as journalism stays a viable career opportunity."