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What do an old man carrying a huge pickle, a pirate with a bag of gold and a minimally dressed superhero have in common? They’re all on the cover of this statistics book giving you a hint that this is not your statistics-as-usual sort of course. It is, however, a fairly comprehensive introductory statistics treatise covering raw data, sorting, samples, populations, probabilities, inference and hypothesis testing. Illustrated with literally hundreds of lively and intriguing cartoon characters, the general idea of the book is to illustrate how statisticians think and help you visualize concepts that often seem as little esoteric to most of us. Along the way, you’ll probably find yourself chuckling. Take, for instance, this discussion on samples and progressions. “Since the dawn of civilization . . .people have had the urge to count things. In fact, the earliest forms of writing were invented for counting. As civilizations grew . . . so did the number of things needing to be counted. But this created a new challenge. Sometimes it’s impossible to count all the things you want to know about. Which is why, long ago, someone dreamed up the strategy .. . of studying a sample . . . to learn something about an entire population.” This entire discussion is illustrated over a two-page spread and includes all sorts of historical figures such as gladiators, emperors and oxen.
There are fourteen chapters divided into two parts – gathering statistics and hunting parameters. Each chapter traces a statistical concept showing the rationale and explaining what it means and what it shows. The cartoon illustrations are amazingly effective at developing a clear understanding of the concepts. And the humor – subtle and often not so subtle – also aids understanding, not to mention holding interest in a topic that is often considered dry and boring. There are no discussion questions or problems, however.
An interesting addendum is the appendix introduced by this statement: “We’ve spent this book learning how statisticians think. But if you want to learn how they talk . . . you can start by exploring . . . The Math Cave.” What follows is a concise explanation of each chapter in ordinary statistics-speak – punctuated with a few clever cartoons just for good measure. Whether you’re a student immersed in a statistics course that you’ve given up hope of understanding or someone who loves cartoon characters no matter what the subject or someone who just wants to learn something about statistics, this just might be the extraordinary statistics book you’ve been looking for. 225 pgs, pb ~ Janice