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Numbers don’t have to be baffling

It is, in simple terms, the study of numbers and how to compute them.

But if you want to be more specific, Webster’s defines numeracy as the “capacity for quantitative thought and expression.”

Tonight at the Nevada City’s Madelyn Helling Library, George Rebane will begin assisting you in grasping this concept.



For the next four months, Rebane, the Nevada City Rotary and the Nevada County Library system will be hosting a series on numeracy to educate the public on the importance of numbers in our lives.

If the concept of calculating a percentage scares you, or you struggle to understand the numbers behind the national debt, Rebane hopes the series of lectures will help you understand that numbers are to be embraced, not feared.




Rebane, who may be familiar to locals as a former county planning commissioner, has been studying numbers for much of his professional life. Before he retired, Rebane earned a Ph.D. in engineering and worked for a time developing the first laser disc systems for Florida’s Walt Disney World.

Numbers, he admits, have been a big part of his life.

“Numbers are attached to everything we do,” Rebane said recently, poring over a PowerPoint presentation he hopes will encourage area residents to sharpen their numbers skills and embrace the power of math.

Rebane points to government figures that suggest 90 percent of Americans who are literate are “innumerate,” meaning they lack the basic skills needed to properly balance a checkbook, compute the interest on a loan or even express thoughts reasonably well.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education, less than 10 percent of the nation’s labor force possessed enough proficiency to construct bar graphs or calculate the total payments of a 30-year mortgage using a 6 percent interest rate.

Sounds scary, right?

Rebane says it doesn’t have to be.

The free lectures will discuss the concept of numeracy, which is being taught widely to students in Canada and the United Kingdom and how it can apply to the real world.

County Librarian Steven Fjeldsted said he, too, hopes to increase the county’s intellectual quotient by making the series available to math-challenged residents. It’s all part of creating a more literate community.

Know and go

Lectures on “numeracy” begin today at the Madelyn Helling Library, 980 Helling Way, Nevada City. They will be led by George Rebane, a member of the Nevada City Rotary. Rebane has worked as a computer systems engineer in the aerospace industry and contributed to the development of multimedia and laser disc systems for Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center.

The lectures will be held in the library’s community room, from 7 to 9 p.m. on the following dates:

• Today

• Thursday, April 21

• Thursday, May 19

• Thursday, June 16

For more information, call the library at 265-7050.


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