Tuesday, August 23, 2011

avoiding discretion

My stats teacher explained it this way, "A discrete number is something you can count, it's a whole number. For example, the number of students in a class is discrete. You can't have half a student," he continued in jest, "unless you're a liberal arts major!"

On the other hand, continuous numbers are used for measurement. I'm five feet ten and a quarter inches tall. Last night I slept for six and a quarter hours. Pi is 3.14159....

Sometimes we think of aging as a discrete event. As a young child I never liked the question often posed on my birthday, "So how does it feel to be a year older?" It's such a confusing question for a kid because he thinks he was only five years old yesterday but in reality, he was five years and three hundred sixty four days old (depending on the year), and that's certainly closer to six years than five.

With that, another common mistake is to think that when you turn six you're beginning your sixth year. This is not true. Turning six means you've lived for six complete years. That sixth year has now come and gone. On your sixth birthday you start your seventh year.

I mention all this because tomorrow, in a few short hours really, I begin my thirtieth year.


  1. Now we just need to get people to start using "fewer" instead of "less" in countable comparisons.

  2. Somehow I missed this post. Hope your birthday was memorable.