Sunday, April 17, 2011
Some People Don't Like Statistics?
When I first meet people and I tell them I'm a statistician, 90% of them respond with a comment about how difficult stats was or how much they hate the subject. I'm amazed at how many people think they don't like statistics. From watching the news, to calculating how long it will take you to get to work that day, to deciding what to eat for breakfast, statistics are part of everyone's everyday life. So what I want to know is, what's NOT to like about statistics?
Picture this, your alarm goes off in the morning and you’re still tired. You determine that you can press the snooze button twice before you absolutely must get out of bed in order to make it to work on time. How do you know you can press the snooze button twice? You know that because you know it will take you 30 minutes on average to shower and get dressed, 10 minutes to take your dog out and feed him, and 45 minutes on average to get to work, provided there isn’t any rain, snow, or traffic accident. Sound familiar? You planned your entire morning out based on statistics.
Before you run out the door, you glance back and forth between the apple, the pastry, and the cereal. The apple would be the healthiest choice, or perhaps the cereal provided it’s not loaded with sugar, but that pastry sure smells and looks delicious! How do you decide what to eat for breakfast? Statistics.
For those of you who are sports fans, have you ever tried to predict which team will win the big game? Played fantasy football? Filled out an NCAA March Madness bracket? How did you decide who would win the game, or which players to select? More statistics.
What about those of you who are homeowners; did you ask your real estate agent for comps for other homes in the neighborhood you reside in? Did you look at the previous sales prices for your house, previous real estate taxes, estimated monthly bills, and average price per square foot? All statistics.
For those of you who were students at one point or another, have you ever converted your homework score into a percent correct score? It’s nice to know that you answered 17 out of 20 items correctly, but knowing that you answered 85% of the items correctly is more meaningful. By doing this you’re calculating statistics. Did you ever get a test back and ask your teacher what the class average was?
So you not only like statistics, and calculate them on your own, but now you are even asking other people for them?! So what you’re telling me, is that you like statistics! That’s not a question, it’s a “fact” (a word seldom used in statistics).