The article, Why Students with Smallest Debts have the Larger Problem, is a nice article to get students exercising their reasoning skills early on. The premise that students with smaller debt are more likely to default is counter-intuitive, and makes for good in class conversations. I am currently in Chapter 2 of my course covering ratios, and one of the first worksheets has students converting given ratios into a comparison of two quantities, that I refer to as *Thing 1* and *Thing 2*.

For example, the article states that only 2% of undergraduates borrow more than $50,000 per year. The 2% is a ratio in disguise, 2 : 100, and requires care in unpacking. The first quantity, *Thing 1*, is referring to undergraduates who borrow more than $50,000 a year, while the second quantity, *Thing 2*, is all undergraduate borrowers. Some of you may think this is a trivial exercise, but my students struggled with question #5 on the take home quiz below.

Try it out with your own students! Note that the first two questions refer to Joel Best’s book, *Damned Lies and Statistics*, which we read each week along with an article.

- Joel Best says that social statistics have two purposes, one public and one hidden. What is the hidden purpose?

- Joel Best talks about the social construction of social problems.
- In what sense has the problem of student loan debt discussed in the article,
*Why Students with Smallest Debts Have the Larger Problem*, been socially “constructed”? - Why are students with smaller debt more likely to default?

- In what sense has the problem of student loan debt discussed in the article,

- The
*Why Students with Smallest Debts Have the Larger Problem*article mentions the median debt for lawyers and doctors earning degrees in 2012. Do you think the mean debt would be higher or lower? Explain!

- The graphic below is from the article. The ratio of which two rates is 4:3?

- The article is chock full of percentages! In the paragraph starting: “Most borrowers have small debts, according to the Federal Reserve of NY;…” there are 5 percentages given: 43%, 72%, 34%, 3%, and 18%. For each percentage answer the question: Percentage of what?

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