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Statistics Education

Blog posts and articles about learning to perform, understand, and communicate about statistics and data analysis.

Predictions can be a tricky thing. Consider trying to predict the number rolled by 2 six-sided dice. We know that 7 is the most likely outcome. We know the exact probability each number has of being rolled. If we rolled the dice 100 times, we could calculate the expected value for the number of times each value would be rolled. However, even with all that information, we can't definitively predict... Continue Reading
My colleague Cody Steele wrote a post that illustrated how the same set of data can appear to support two contradictory positions. He showed how changing the scale of a graph that displays mean and median household income over time drastically alters the way it can be interpreted, even though there's no change in the data being presented. When we analyze data, we need to present the results in... Continue Reading

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Today, September 16, is World Ozone Day. You don't hear much about the ozone layer any more. In fact, if you’re under 30, you might think this is just another trivial, obscure observance, along the lines of International Dot Day (yesterday) or National Apple Dumpling Day (tomorrow). But there’s a good reason that, almost 30 years ago, the United Nations designated today to as a day to raise... Continue Reading
About a year ago, a reader asked if I could try to explain degrees of freedom in statistics. Since then,  I’ve been circling around that request very cautiously, like it’s some kind of wild beast that I’m not sure I can safely wrestle to the ground. Degrees of freedom aren’t easy to explain. They come up in many different contexts in statistics—some advanced and complicated. In mathematics, they're... Continue Reading
P-values are frequently misinterpreted, which causes many problems. I won't rehash those problems here here since my colleague Jim Frost has detailed the issues involved at some length, but the fact remains that the p-value will continue to be one of the most frequently used tools for deciding if a result is statistically significant.  You know the old saw about "Lies, damned lies, and... Continue Reading
I read trade publications that cover everything from banking to biotech, looking for interesting perspectives on data analysis and statistics, especially where it pertains to quality improvement. Recently I read a great blog post from Tony Taylor, an analytical chemist with a background in pharmaceuticals. In it, he discusses the implications of the FDA's updated guidance for industry analytical... Continue Reading
Using statistical techniques to optimize manufacturing processes is quite common now, but using the same approach on social topics is still an innovative approach. For example, if our objective is to improve student academic performances, should we increase teachers wages or would it be better to reduce the number of students in a class? Many social topics (the effect of increasing the minimum... Continue Reading
You might not have known, but September is Attendance Awareness Month. Specifically, attendance of children at American public schools. The organization Attendance Works recently came out with a report that highlights the learning gap between students with strong attendance and students with poor attendance. Statistical software helps us quickly and easily create graphs that make it easier to... Continue Reading
The other day I received a request from a friend to look into a new study in a peer reviewed journal that found a link between MMR vaccinations and an increased risk of autism in African Americans boys. To draw this conclusion, the new study reanalyzed data that was discarded a decade ago by a previous study. My friend wanted to know, from a statistical perspective, was it unethical for the... Continue Reading
by The Discrete Sharer, guest blogger As Minitab users, many of us have found staged control charts to be an effective tool to quantify and demonstrate the “before and after” state of our process improvement activities. However, have you ever considered using them to demonstrate the effects of changes to compensation/incentive plans for your employees?  Here's an example of how a mid-sized... Continue Reading
Did you know that this year the American Statistical Association (ASA) is celebrating its 175th anniversary? That’s a pretty significant birthday! On the ASA’s 175th anniversary webpage, they publish blog posts periodically that cover ASA happenings, such as anniversary events and celebrations, as well as interesting tidbits about the organization. Recently, they published a post covering the... Continue Reading
It's all too easy to make mistakes involving statistics. Powerful statistical software can remove a lot of the difficulty surrounding statistical calculation, reducing the risk of mathematical errors—but  correctly interpreting the results of an analysis can be even more challenging.  No one knows that better than Minitab's technical trainers. All of our trainers are seasoned statisticians with... Continue Reading
Minitab Statistical Software was born out of a desire to make statistics easier to learn: by making the calculations faster and easier with computers, the trio of educators who created the first version of Minitab sought to free students from intensive computations to focus on learning key statistical concepts. That approach resonated with statistics instructors, and today Minitab is the standard... Continue Reading
Adam Ozimek had an interesting post April 15th on the Modeled Behavior blog at Forbes.com. He observed that one of the advantages of big data is how easy it is to get test data to validate a model that you built from sample data. Ozimek notes that he is “for the most part a p-value checking, residual examining, data modeling culture economist,” but he’s correct to observe that if you can test your... Continue Reading
Why should you care about Minitab Statistical Software, the leading software used for quality improvement and statistics education?   Because important people in your life -- your co-workers, your students, your kids, your boss, maybe even you -- are afraid to analyze data.   There's no shame in that. In fact, there are pretty good reasons for people to feel some trepidation (or even outright panic)... Continue Reading
A colleague of mine at Minitab, Cheryl Pammer, was recently featured in "A Statistician's Journey," a monthly feature that appears in the print and online versions of the American Statistical Association's AMSTAT News magazine.   Each month, the magazine asks ASA members to talk about the paths they took to get to where they are today. Cheryl is a "user experience designer" at Minitab. In other... Continue Reading
by Arun Kumar, guest blogger One of the most commonly used statistical methods is ANOVA, short for “Analysis of Variance.” Whether you’re analysing data for Six-Sigma styled quality improvement projects, or perhaps just taking your first statistics course, a good understanding of how this technique works is important. A lot of concepts are involved in any analysis using ANOVA and its subsequent... Continue Reading
In this post I'll show how we can use a multivariate statistical analysis (in this case, a factorial analysis) to better understand data on social progress and economic development. This is a very simple and practical example of a factorial analysis performed using Minitab Statistical Software. Factorial analysis is often considered to be a complex and advanced statistical technique, but I hope... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger The field of statistics has a long history and many people have made contributions over the years. Many contributors to the field were educated as statisticians, such as Karl Pearson and his son Egon Pearson. Others were people with problems that needed solving, and they developed statistical methods to solve these problems. The Standard Normal Distribution One... Continue Reading
I received my B.S. in applied statistics in 1992 from Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T) and my master's in applied statistics from R.I.T's Center for Quality and Applied Statistics in 1993. I also completed Ph.D. coursework at The University of Washington and The Ohio State University. While working towards my Statistics degrees, I further developed my industrial skills working at Xerox,... Continue Reading