Relevance of Statistics course irrespective of the Program a student is pursuing needs to be highlighted so that students get the right perspective about why and what they are learning in the course. Statistics handles ‘evidence-based view of reality’ (Friedman, H.H., Friedman, L.W and Amoo Taiwo, 2012 ) from different types of data collected through observation and studies. Article of Freidman et al., is the main source for the reflective essay.
According to the authors there were numerous attempts at making statistics likeable by the students, prominent among which are:: (i) using humor in the introductory statistics course (Friedman, Friedman & Amoo, 2002); (ii) using real life data in the course so that students get first-hand experience of working with real data (Davies, 2006; Libman, 2010).
In this paper, authors present a different approach of grabbing attention of students by presenting them evidence-based research (through application of statistics). The authors painstakingly illustrate the relevance, thought-provoking and game-changing nature of statistics in domains that touch our lives, such as: Health, Happiness, Safety, Rankings and Ratings of institutions, Crime, Teacher cheating, Attractiveness, Sports and Education. They put forth simple but profound examples of how statistics has helped blow many myths, changed the game-plans, and unmasked the marketing gimmicks of pharmaceutical companies and others. Clark & Oswald (2002) developed a regression equation to determine ‘human happiness’ as measured through ‘relationships’, ‘health’, ‘money’ and other factors. Gonick & Smith’s (1993) book “The Cartoon Guide to Statistics” is well-illustrated book explaining principles of statistics through real life examples from all fields. The examples cited in these sources would clearly demonstrate to the students, how companies, organizations and others present selective findings from the research studies they conduct to gain market share or to push their products and services or to enhance their rankings or ratings.
I completely agree with the authors that statistics is “interesting, thought-provoking and relevant” (Friedman, Friedman & Amoo ) because: (i) Statistics can, on the one hand reveal the reality, trends and patterns, while on the other hand by fudging the numbers organizations can twist the reality and truth. By acquiring adequate knowledge in statistics, students in their future careers, will be able to distinguish fake from reality in the results presented to them by external (marketing research firms) as well internal departments; (ii) Using statistical tools and techniques, I will be able to forecast future trends (of capital markets, crude prices, commodity prices) based on the historical data.
Apart from the examples provided by the authors, I would like to illustrate how statistics is used in arriving at certain decisions in real life. Machines fail due to various reasons. Their failure times are recorded and an attempt is made to fit the data into a statistical distribution. If it fits, say a particular distribution such as exponential, then ‘mean time to first failure’ (MTTF- which is the warranty period) and ‘mean time between failures’ (MTBF) are determined. MTBF helps in ordering the critical component and keeping it in stock around the specific time slot, so that the machine would not stop functioning for want of the component. MTTF helps the organizations in offering the warranty period. Actually in some cases such as fans, refrigerators and other household appliances, where there is not much of a difference in products, extended warranty period could be the key offering by some companies. Insurance companies determine the premium based on the age of insured and the mortality rates for the particular cohort- this again uses statistics. Sizes of ready-made garments, shoes and under-garments are manufactured in 3-4 sizes such as extra large, large, medium and small based on statistical averages. Quality control departments, in manufacturing industries, use Statistical Quality Control techniques to track defective products, to accept or reject a batch of products and to trace variations in process and products. Due to length constraints, in this reflective essay further elaboration about relevance and use of statistics is not possible.
Clark, Andrew, E., & Oswald, Andrew, J. A simple statistical method for measuring how life
events affect happiness. International Journal of Epidemiology, 31 (2002): 1139-1144. Web.
Davies, N. Real data, real learning and the London Olympics. Significance, 3(2006): 94-96.
Gonick, Larry & Woollcott Smith. The Cartoon Guide to Statistics, 1st Ed., Harper Perennial,
New York, 1993. Print.
Friedman, H.H., Friedman, L.W., & Amoo, T. Using humor in the introductory statistics
Friedman, H.H., Friedman, L.W. & Amoo, T. Using Real-world Examples to enhance the
Relevance of Introductory Statistics Course. 2012. Web.
Libman, Z. (2010). Integrating real-life data analysis in teaching descriptive statistics: A
constructivist approach. Journal of Statistics Education, 18(1) (2010): 1-23. Web.