Over on AidWatch, Bill Easterly and Laura Freschi describe the implications for Africa of the UNDP’s new Human Development Index. Worth reading in full, but I couldn’t agree more with one of their main conclusions:
…at the very least it’s clear that obscure choices of method make a big difference in who you celebrate – and who you make look bad.
This reminds me of the climate debate, where discussion of the discount rate (which drives almost all the results) is often relegated to an appendix and too often ignored (with some notable exceptions). Skim over the math at your peril.
I actually had a professor who used to grade using a geometric average (this will make sense after reading the post above): overall score = (homework^0.25)*(midterm^0.25)*(final^0.5). This was better than the professor who liked to give negative points if you wrote something stupid, although now that I’m on the other side of the classroom I’m much more sympathetic.