Welcome to the era of vague news: a study of the demands of statistical and mathematical products in the COVID-19 pandemic media

Iddo Gal, Vince Geiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we report on a typology of the demands of statistical and mathematical products (StaMPs) embedded in media items related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The typology emerged from a content analysis of a large purposive sample of diverse media items selected from digital news sources based in four countries. The findings encompass nine categories of StaMPs: (1) descriptive quantitative information, (2) models, predictions, causality and risk, (3) representations and displays, (4) data quality and strength of evidence, (5) demographics and comparative thinking, (6) heterogeneity and contextual factors, (7) literacy and language demands, (8) multiple information sources, and (9) critical demands. We illustrate these categories via selected media items, substantiate them through relevant research literature, and point to categories that encompass new or enhanced types of demands. Our findings offer insights into the rich set of capabilities that citizens (including both young people and adults) must possess in order to engage these mass media demands, critically analyze statistical and mathematical information in the media, evaluate the meaning and credibility of news reports, understand public policies, and make evidenced-informed judgments. Our conclusions point to the need to revise current curricular frameworks and conceptual models (e.g., regarding statistical and probability literacy, adult numeracy), to better incorporate notions such as blended knowledge, vagueness, risk, strength of evidence, and criticality. Furthermore, more attention is needed to the literacy and language demands of media items involving statistical and mathematical information. Implications for further research and educational practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-28
Number of pages24
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Adult numeracy
  • Critical interpretation
  • Evidence
  • Mathematics education
  • Mathematics in the media
  • Statistical literacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Mathematics


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