The Tao of Statistics

January 17, 2013

(This article was originally published at Learning From Data » Statistics, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

This is the third that I’m reading The Tao of Statistics: A Path to Understanding (With No Math)  by Dana K. Keller. Of course, it is not entirely because the book has “Tao” in its title.

As the title suggests, there is absolutely no math in the book. This nice little book opens each chapter with a nice drawing by Helen Cardiff and goes on to explain simple statistical concepts in plain words, plus one or two simple examples. A small proportion of the book can be previewed here. Again, absolutely no math.

I think some descriptions of statistics and statistical concepts in this book are quite helpful, even for people who is doing statistics every day. Some quote from its introduction section:

Statistics are filters on how we see the world. They focus our vision, and they help us to see through the fog. In doing so, they also prevent us from seeing some of what else is there. Stay aware of what is being filtered out, too.

You do not need to know how to calculate statistics to understand what they are telling you.

Averages do not exist from most things. They are only ideas. A truly average person does not exits. The idea of an average is what is useful.

The rest of statistics is no more real than averages. Regardless of how technical a statistic sounds, it is still only an idea that can be grasped by all.

The world of statistics has become technically complex. When someone produces a statistic that you have never heard of or seen before, simply ask what it does and for an example that demonstrates its usefulness.

Ideas lead to understanding. Experiencing the ideas of statistics motives us to develop and deepen our understanding of them.

and some more from the Epilogue:

With assumptions piled high

Armed with knowledge and intuition

Although mistakes can be made

Don’t wager against a statistician

The good thing about the book is that you can flip through it a relaxed afternoon and have a enjoyable reading, but the bad thing is the book does cost a small fortune to buy or rent. I guess partly due to those drawings. Preview it before you check it out from your library, if you can find it there.

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