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19 November 2008 @ 09:28 pm
review of a statistics book  

Takahashi, Shin, and Trend-pro Co., Ltd., 2008, The manga guide to statistics, 224 p., perfect bound paperback, ISBN 9781593271893, $19.95, order@oreilly.com.


This is a statistics text with a plot. Rui, a 17-year-old girl, has a crush on a colleague of her father's. The dashing Mr. Igarashi is a statistician, so she decides she wants to study statistics. Alas, in a classic bait and switch maneuver, her tutor turns out to be a statistics geek who doesn't seem nearly as handsome. He wears bizarre glasses with concentric rings that make him look like he's constantly in the process of hypnotizing someone. Still, Rui perseveres, and the classes begin. I guess I should mention that this book was translated from the Japanese. The translation is good, but the setting is in Japan, which, for me, makes it a little more interesting than it otherwise would be.


The main strength of The manga guide to statistics is not the manga, at least not for me. (In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I'm not a big fan of manga.) It doesn't help that the protagonist is drawn as though she were about 12 years old, which is at odds with the major plot line of the story. No, the best thing about the book is the clear and visual explanations of basic statistical concepts and methods.


I'm not sure how much statistics the average American teenager is exposed to, but probably not much. The manga guide to statistics seems appropriate for advanced high school students. Perhaps it would be too basic for the most knowledgeable. The book starts at the most basic level, so as not to lose anyone at the beginning. The text covers descriptive statistics like the mean, median, and standard deviation, and there's extensive discussion of probability, standard scores, and hypothesis testing. All of these topics are illustrated with examples that would be familiar to a Japanese high school student. Some might seem a little odd to Americans. One example involves graphing the prices of ramen, in Japanese yen. However, another example concerns whether high school students preferred to be asked out on dates in person, by text message, or by phone. If anything the glimpses of Japanese culture will make the book pleasantly exotic to American students. I said the book has a plot, but Rui's adventures in teen romance echo the plots of thousands of television shows and novels written for teenagers. Anyone who can't predict the resolution of her situation doesn't watch enough television.


This book ought to be useful to anyone trying to teach herself statistics from scratch, and perhaps to anyone trying to relearn statistics he once studied but has since almost completely forgot. The manga guide to statistics might be good for home schoolers, too. I don't think anyone would buy it just for the manga, no matter how big a fan of the art form he or she might be! It is about stats after all.



The end



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(Deleted comment)
dreamnnightmaredreamnnightmare on November 20th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
the book says nothing at all about the misuse of statistics. That would be useful, but it's really quite a different topic. And I think you're right, most people find statistics through advertising and journalism. It's essential, therefore, that the average person understand basic statistics. Especially when encountering advertising! Too bad most people don't get to learn about it.