Q: Well, well, what have we here?
A: It’s a blog about education statistics. The goal is to tell the story of American schools through numbers.

Q: Why numbers? Why not words, or pictures, or the ancient and beautiful art of mime?
A: Numbers are powerful. Too often, people enlist statistics to push a predetermined view, which is why numbers have such a bad rap as liars and deceivers. But if we unshackle them from narrow schemes and partisan agendas, then numbers can be as honest and profound as poets.

Q: Or mimes.
A: Uh… right.

Q: Where does the title come from?
A: There are 55 million children in American schools.

Q: Your blog is named after a number of children? That’s creepy.
A: Whatever. So I’m no Nate Silver.

Q: But does it even make sense to talk about “American education”? Isn’t our country too vast and varied?
A: I worry that sometimes. WIth each state a laboratory, and each school embedded in a community with its own history and quirks, how can we generalize? Are we destined to talk past each other? Perhaps different schools face challenges as opposite as droughts and floods, and no meaningful conversation can encompass them all. I certainly don’t have all of the answers. Or any of them. But I hope to turn up and share some useful facts, and that’s a start.

Q: Okay. Who are you, anyway?
A: I’m Ben Orlin. I’ve taught high school math (including Stats), and written for Slate and The Atlantic. I blog about math, teaching, learning, and the challenge of splitting checks at Math with Bad Drawings.

Q: What’s your favorite statistic?
A: “Homelessness has more than doubled since a time when it was less than half what it was now.” Best delivered with a sense of indignation and/or despair.

Q: Good answer. Relatedly, what’s your favorite mime?
A: My… that… how is that “relatedly”?

Q: [knocking on an invisible door]
A: I’m leaving now.