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Keywords: Statistics, data analysis

Title: The Tao of Statistics: A Path to Understanding (With No Math)

Author: Dana K. Keller

Publisher: SAGE Publications

ISBN: 1412913144

Media: Book


Verdict: An interesting and thought-provoking read


This is a very odd book on statistics. Not simply because it de-emphasises the maths (there are plenty of non-mathematical stats books around, including Statistics for Dummies and Statistics For People (Who Think They) Hate Statistics), but because it is a series of quiet Zen-like meditations on statistical topics. Imagine a Buddhist master imparting wisdom to a novice. Now imagine that this master is also an expert statistician and the eager novice is seeking knowledge and deep understanding of probability, measures of central tendency, correlation and causation and so on.

Each topic/meditation is fairly short, generally one or two pages, and covers one specific topic. These range from fairly general things like why statistics is used, the differences in types of data and so on, to very specific, such as correlation, analyses of variance and so on. The order of the topics is important, but that's not to say that the book has to be read sequentially.

While the book contains no maths that's not to say that it's for the general reader. The topics covered make most sense for those readers who have some existing knowledge, want to revise or just want another way of understanding what it is they are learning in class or from a more traditional stats text. In that sense this makes a great companion to a stats class.

There is a constant questioning of the limits of statistical methods throughout the book. It's a theme that runs throughout, and is illustrated frequently in the context of two example scenarios - one of a high-school principal and one of a director of health. These scenarios are used to indicate the kind of uses that statistics are put to, but just as importantly to show the questions that users of statistical techniques must ask themselves. Numbers have power, and part of the wisdom of statistics is to know the limits of those numbers and to understand the dangers involved in using them.

In addition to the text, each topic is illustrated with a simple Haiku and a line drawing.

If you are looking for a book on learning how to compute stats then this isn't for you. On the other hand if you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the results of those computations then this book has a lot to offer.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2006. Published January 20 2006