Friday, July 20, 2007

Making more sense with numbers

Some time ago, I walked through an exercise to make sense of one sort of numerical claim we often encounter in our daily lives, whether in business reports or the daily news. Now Andrew Gelman has pointed to a presentation by Dick De Veaux called Math is Music – Stats is Literature, pointing out that thinking statistically is hard work.

Andrew recommended it for teachers of statistics; I'd suggest it for anyone interested in making sense of numbers. Even assimilating the lessons of those slides might help us remember to plot the data we've been given and then to look at the graphs, to think about assumptions that are being made, to think critically and be skeptical, and to make better decisions.

Incidentally, you can find links to tools to convert data tables you might see online to graphs in my comments to Andrew's tables2graphs.com.

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