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Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 13:08 UK

Teaching quality and peer influences

Children reading books at school
More or Less
Monday, 14 April, 2008
BBC Radio 4, 1630 BST

Can numbers tell you whether it matters what sort of school your child goes to?

News reports have claimed that middle-class children suffer no academic disadvantage if they attend a struggling state school. But is that really true?

Actually, it is a very difficult question to answer.

One factor to consider is who your children go to school with. How important is that?

Or is it the quality of teaching that really counts?

Researchers in the United States have studied 120,000 children, who were randomly assigned classmates over a period of a decade.

Tim Harford finds out the results of the study from one of the world's leading experts on the statistics of peer effects, Professor Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University.

Inflation figures

How can inflation in Zimbabwe reach 100,000%? As a listener pointed out to us, it seems an unbelievable statistic.

We asked an economist living in Zimbabwe to explain.

Dungeons and Dragons

More or Less also celebrated the mathematics of Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game, which hooked millions of teenagers in the 1980s including our presenter Tim Harford.

Gary Gygax, the game's co-creator, who died recently, did what a hundred worthy educational initiatives had failed to do, and combined imagination, drama and narrative with polyhedral dice, statistical tables and feats of mental arithmetic.

Tim unravelled the mysteries of the game, mathematical and otherwise, with recovering Dungeons and Dragons fan Michael Gove MP and the co-founder of Games Workshop, Ian Livingstone.

BBC Radio 4's More or Less was broadcast on Monday 14 April 2008 at 1630 BST.


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