Will watching TV make you live longer?

Did you know that countries that have a higher number of televisions per capita have longer lifespans per person? Now you’re probably thinking, “there’s no way that televisions can make you live longer!” And that’s actually true, televisions don’t make you live longer. But countries that have a higher televisions per capita tend to be richer countries, and richer countries can afford to have better medical institutions that will cause longer lifespans.

Some of the correlations the girls were presented with... can you explain them?
Some of the correlations the girls were presented with… can you explain them?

What I just explained is the difference between correlation and causation. In ALF this week, as part of our “Inspiration Week”, we spent a lesson examining the difference between correlation and causation. Here’s another one: Why is it that the more firemen that go to a fire, the more property that is destroyed? The reason is not that firemen don’t know what they’re doing, but because if more fireman are going to a fire, then the fire is likely to be bigger than normal, which means that more property is destroyed. It was interesting how our students were forced to think in a different way than they’re used to, and how they had to use more of their creative side in order to come up with explanations for seemingly strange situations. Some of the answers caused much amusement amongst the girls, for example the suggestion that the television emits special rays that increase our lifespan! However, as we went through various correlations, girls became adept at working out what the actual causes could be.

Sheetal offers an explanation for a seemingly strange correlation
Sheetal offers an explanation for a seemingly strange correlation

After going over multiple examples of correlation vs. causation, our students used a Google Spreadsheet to calculate the numerical correlations of different sets of data. It’s amazing how quickly they are becoming familiar with using laptops and software such as Google Docs! After they mastered that, then our students went to a database to find data on the Kala-Azar disease, and they had to find the correlation of number of deaths from Kala-Azar vs. time in the state of Bihar.

Alisha and Sweety calculate correlation coefficients
Alisha and Sweety calculate correlation coefficients

At ALF, one way that we’re trying to prepare our students for tomorrow’s jobs is by teaching them to do research using technology and to be able to analyze it to make proper decisions. It’s fascinating watching our students developing this ability. This is a skill that is crucial for their future, but isn’t usually taught in the classroom due to many constraints. In ALF we realize that teaching the school curriculum isn’t enough–our students have to be developing skills such as these to be change-makers in the future!

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