- Statistics Without Tears – A Primer for Non-Mathematicians
- by Derek Rowntree
- Charles Scribner’s Sons
- Copyright 1981
- 190 pages
Rating (for pages 1-101) – 7.5 out of 10
The last few days haven’t afforded too many big blocks of time for reading. So, I’ve been going through Derek Rowntree’s Statistics Without Tears at a snail’s pace. When I got around to reading, I found that Chapters 4 and 5 certainly required more concentration than did the first three chapters.
Chapter 4 (pp. 63-81)
Chapter 4 concerns the normal curve. Rowntree clearly explains what normal means and how the mean and the standard deviation of each normal distribution allow us to make statistical inferences. I thought that my knowledge of the normal curve was good, but Rowntree schooled me on a couple of the finer points:
- an English mathematician named de Moivre gets credit as the first person to notice the normal curve (in the the 17th century) (p. 68) and
- the normal curve shifts from being convex to concave when we are +/- one standard deviation from the mean (p. 72)
Chapter 5 (pp. 82-101)
Rowntree uses Chapter 4 to prepare the reader for the material on the sampling distribution of the mean in Chapter 5. Rowntree tells the reader that we are not interested in samples per se – we are interested in whether we can generalize from these samples.
The discussion is good, but when you hit Chapter 5 you feel as though you just moved from playing checkers to playing chess. The implications of the sampling distribution of the mean are vast. I probably need to re-read the last ten pages of the chapter.
In the Introduction, Rowntree discusses the meaning of his book’s title, warning the reader that “… I did not imply Statistics Without Effort” (p. 10). The admonition is well taken. In Chapter 5, his discussion of the sampling distribution of the mean is very good, but it still requires some hard thinking. Statistics Without Tears reminds me of the quote attributed to Einstein that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Rowntree does everything that he can to spoon feed us stats, but our minds still have to do some work.
Without Tears is challenging, but it’s also very good. I thought that the opening was a little unstimulating, because it was material that I already knew. Suffice to say, I now feel challenged and look forward to the last three chapters.