Statistics: The Math That Isn’t Math But Is Really Math

statisticsDoing a master’s degree is great and I love learning new things. Maybe because I retain knowledge relatively easily. However, statistics has been the most difficult subject I have ever encountered – since high school. Hell, I thought I had eliminated all Math based subjects when I left the juvenile nightmare that my high school career. I am artistically inclined, always have been. My bachelor’s degree went swimmingly in the faculty of humanities and I only dabbled in the social sciences to earn my psychology minor.

Now that I have undertaken a master’s degree in Human Resource Development I have had to face the beast that I have successfully avoided for many years now (nope not telling how many years it’s been since high school – I can’t do math, but I’m sure others can). My frustrations stem from the fact that I’m never sure when the rules of math apply or don’t apply; when the negative numbers must be honored or when it is doesn’t matter. Oh and the symbols – for crying out loud seriously. Squiggly sign after squiggly sign – I spent 3 classes writing a big lop-sided M instead of µ because of my lecturer’s none existent drawing/writing skills. This should illustrate just how bad my ignorance is. I am frustrated and quite frankly unfamiliar with feeling like a complete idiot in class. I will admit – I am considered something of a “know-it-all” and I am usually well-informed.

I even managed with the help of my amazing study group to conquer my first ever statistics course last semester but now that I have to do more advanced statistics; I’ve realized just how lacking my knowledge base is – I retained almost nothing nor have I transferred anything I learned in my first class. It is beyond frustrating.

Don’t even get me started on how hard it is for me to read text books on statistics; it’s written in a bloody foreign language for God’s sake and I only speak English and Jamaican Patois.

Sigh – enough bitching; time to hit YouTube for instructional videos. If anyone can suggest any particularly helpful videos, please post the links as a comment, especially on probability, seriously it would be a great help.

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4 thoughts on “Statistics: The Math That Isn’t Math But Is Really Math

  1. I haven’t any particular recommendations of videos or web sites. I have taught introduction to statistics a couple times and would be glad to help if I could, though.

    One thing that is an advantage statistics has over many math courses is that there’s never really a “when would we ever use this in the real world?” question about it. All the important pieces of statistics are derived from intensely human, supremely practical questions: how can we measure this group of observations? Can we compare this group to another? Can we say one group’s measurement is so different from the other’s that the two groups are probably different? Can we say that this measured quantity changes strongly, or weakly, or otherwise, as some other measured quantity changes?

    Also nicely, at least if you aren’t asked to derive formulas, nearly all the calculations are very basic things. The formulas may require you to do a lot of arithmetic, but if you understand how to do the small problems then you know how to do the big problems too; they’re just longer to finish, until you’re allowed to let a computer do the calculating for you.

    Probability is hard to learn, since it starts out so differently from other mathematics courses, and because you have to reason out exactly what you know, and what you’re being asked, about a situation before you can give a correct answer. And so many of the questions end up being slightly loopy ones, like imagining yourself picking out several articles of clothing at random, or studying card and dice problems over and over again. (It might be worth getting a pack of cards or set of dice or some poker chips, just to have the tangible thing to play with, and to test out your intuitive feeling for a problem.)

    It’s usually worthwhile for a probability question to try to identify, “what are the possible outcomes of whatever experiment is described” — the cards you can pick, the way dice can come up, and such — and “what are all the possible outcomes we’re looking for” — all the face cards, the sum of the dice being an odd number, whatnot. Write out all these outcomes, at least while you’re building your confidence in how to do these problems. The exercise of listing all the permutations of how stuff can happen builds your understanding of how likely it is something of interest happens.

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  2. Thanks so much for your comment Joseph – I’m finding that practicing questions are helping. As well as making copious notes. Luckily I have managed to find a few videos on YouTube that have been helpful as well. Fingers crossed that I will soon get it – lol. Wish me luck

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    1. So, you are studying Statistics and at the same time using the word “luck”? If there is anything that you should learn after completing the Statistics Course is that there is no such thing as luck.

      Why no recent post from you….I miss you!!

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      1. Awww thanks for the note. I actually started a new job 2 weeks ago and I have my Advanced Statistics course exam on Friday(so late night studying) – I’m so busy that I can’t even check my emails most days.

        I’ll be back as soon as I can – believe me I have a lot to say 🙂

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