Statistics for Modern Life: 01 An Introduction

Robert Ramstetter By Robert Ramstetter, 2nd May 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2ygq9uxc/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Numbers And Maths

Statistics is used throughout the modern world. However, if the data is not collected properly, the results will be inaccurate.

Statistics is all about how the data is collected.

One of the amazing things about Mathematics is that it is absolute. On a math exam, for instance, you will never see the phrase "Choose the best answer". There is only a right answer or a wrong answer. 2+2 has always and will always equal 4. Statistics, on the other hand, offers a little twist on conventional Mathematics. While the mathematical formulas used in Statistics are absolute, the method of arriving at the answer can vary greatly.
Statistics is a method of arriving at a conclusion based on data that has been received and recorded. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control compile a vast quantity of statistics to track infection rates within the general public or certain demographic regions. The FBI compiles statistics of crime rates for cities or regions across the country. The list goes on and on, from the IRS to banking institutions, to marketing companies. Statistics are an essential tool for business, industry, or government.
The issue with statistics, however, is that it can be misleading if it is not properly collected and compiled. Suppose, for example, you wanted to find the percentage of households across the country where at least one member likes to play golf. Would your data be accurate if you posed the question at a doctor’s convention? The data that you collect would obviously not be accurate because an overwhelming majority of doctors love to golf. It’s what they do when they are off work.
On the other hand, what if you wanted to gather statistics of people who love to fish and who also read a popular fishing magazine? If you posted a link in that magazine requesting user input, would your results be accurate? Remember, you only want to gather statistics from the readers of that magazine. At first glance, it would seem logical that your responses would reflect the opinions of the readers of that magazine. After all, you posted the question in that magazine, right? The conclusion, however, would still not be a true sampling of the views of the readers. The reason is that, generally, most of the respondents are likely those who have a strong view in favor of a subject. Those who do not are more likely not to respond.
In another example, let’s say that you assign a task to ten people to determine how Americans in general feel about gun control. If those ten people are not properly educated and trained in data collection, you would have ten different people using ten different methods of obtaining data and they would likely produce ten different results. You see examples of this in the media every day. Go to any news website and you will see a poll being conducted. Just for fun, go ahead and answer it, then check to see the results. In all likelihood, are these results accurate? To be sure, you could take the same data that they collected and come up with the same results. After all, remember that 2+2 will always equal 4. The problem is whether or not 2+2 should have been added in the first place.
In conclusion, remember that a statistic is only as accurate as the methods used to collect the data.

Links:
Statistics for Modern Life: 02 Beginning Terminology
Statistics for Modern Life: 03 Ratio Scales
Statistics for Modern Life: 04 Learning to Sum
Statistics for Modern Life: 05 Mean, Median, and Mode

Tags

Guide, Introduction, Math, Mathematics, Statistics

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author avatar Robert Ramstetter
Robert Ramstetter is a world traveler and writer of short stories, full length novels, and a vast array of technical articles.

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Comments

author avatar Carol Roach
7th May 2015 (#)

good explanation

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author avatar Robert Ramstetter
7th May 2015 (#)

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it. I am ready to publish the next article on this subject in a few days.

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