Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Given the increasing role of statistics in various areas, many professionals find that they need to make effective decisions based on data. Clearly recognizing this need, Wheelan (Univ. of Chicago; journalist) has provided an intuitive presentation of statistical concepts without getting bogged down by extensive data lists or computation. The author begins by generally introducing each idea with an idealized situation to illustrate that statistical setting and its impact on effective interpretation, and then moves on to current real-world settings to legitimize his discussion. He also clearly discusses subtleties that can be encountered, showing how data users must be careful to avoid oversimplifying the implications of a given result. The presentation is nonthreatening, yet readers will find it a suitably thoughtful consideration of statistical ideas. Many will appreciate that Wheelan accomplishes this masterfully with a minimal number of formulas, generally relegated to footnotes. The conclusion is a capstone consideration of five disparate areas such as the recent increase in children with autism and the difficultly in assessing teacher effectiveness, which nicely pulls together his overall presentation. Valuable for nonexperts who need a firmer grasp of what statistics is all about. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates, general readers, and professionals/practitioners. N. W. Schillow formerly, Lehigh Carbon Community College
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Wheelan (Naked Economics) offers a helping hand and a humorous perspective to everyone who's ever felt confused, lied to, or just plain lost when it comes to statistics, those handy data sets used to determine everything from batting averages and trends on Wall Street to the quality of a school and which door you should pick if you're playing Let's Make a Deal. The author shows how statistics like the mean and the median are used to summarize and find patterns in large collections of data, and in later chapters he consider how statistics are used to assess large-scale economic risk and to find important connections between different sets of data, like those that allow Netflix to offer reasonable movie recommendations. Throughout, Wheelan stresses how statistics "rarely [offer] a single `right' " answer; indeed, when deployed carelessly or deliberately misused, they can sometimes obscure the truth. Furthermore, the author reminds readers that while data can be used to help make better decisions, "even the most precise measurements or calculations should be checked against common sense." Wheelan's relatively mathless real world examples (he sequesters equations in appendixes) and wry style-heavily seasoned with pop culture references-make for a fun and illuminating read. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Jan. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.