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Trusting the Tabloids

Age 11 to 16 Challenge Level:

This resource is part of the collection Should I Risk It?

Tabloids often use headlines designed to make the news seem dramatic and exciting. This activity invites you to dig deeper into the news behind the headlines to see whether they are fairly representing the situation.

Consider the fifteen cards below. Can you match two white information cards with each of the pink headline cards, and then complete the tabloid-style headline?

... by more than 1000%! In 2000, £10 would buy you a little over 13 litres of unleaded petrol. From 1991, VAT at 17.5% was added to the selling price of many items.
... soar by more than 60% In January 2010, VAT rose to 20%. In the 1990s, an average rainy day in Manchester produced more than 6mm of rain.
... by a staggering 115%! In 2010, £10 would buy you just over 8 litres of unleaded petrol. 1 in 7 chronic smokers will get lung cancer.
Massive 33% increase ... In 2004, 5,443 student took A-level Further Maths. The chance that a person will get lung cancer at some point in their life is a little over 1%.
... by a punishing 14%! In the first half of the 20th century, 4.5mm of rain fell in Manchester on an average rainy day. In 2010, 11,682 students took A-level Further Maths.

A printable version of these cards is available here.

Can you re-write these headlines so that they would be more helpful to the reader?
What other information would be useful to include in the stories?

Why do you think tabloid newspapers write their headlines in this manner?

Understanding Uncertainty, Professor Spiegelhalter's website, has lots of articles about probability and risk that you might find interesting. There are some suggestions below, but there's lots more you can explore.