Although this book is over 60 years old, it is remarkably apposite for our times -- and especially in the fields of educational research and assessing pupils' understanding and progress.
I first read this book at university, where I was studying statistics as part of my degree. However, it has been in the context of other subjects and, indeed, life in general that this book has proven most useful.
The odd-sounding title is easily explained by the author himself. He says he wrote the book much in the same spirit as a burglar might write an instruction manual on how to break into people’s houses — not so much to make it easier for burglars to do so, but so that home-owners can see where their vulnerabilities lie.
These days, the book seems to be even more relevant. Not only are research findings reported in the papers virtually every day, but in education in particular there are quite a few articles of faith that are based on shaky, and sometimes non-existent, foundations.
With chapters like “The well-chosen average”, “The little figures that are not there” and “The semi-attached figure”, the book makes you look at statistics in a different way.
For example, if you were to read a report that tells us that research has shown that 98% of students derive no benefit whatsoever from using technology, you may have a vague feeling of unease about such a finding. However, having read this book you should be able to re-read the report and spot where the statistical sleight of hand occurred (assuming it did occur, of course).
Then again, there are the endless announcements telling us that eating X wards off cancer, causes cancer, is dangerous for people over 40, is only dangerous if you eat more than one a day etc etc ad nauseous. Again, an insight into how some of the figures cited were derived would be immensely helpful in your decision-making.
Illustrated with cartoons by Mel Calman, this light-hearted and slim volume punches way above its weight. Although it was first published over 60 years ago, in 1954, it is still relevant. It should be on every teacher’s shelf and in every school library.
How to Lie with Statistics (affiliate link)
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