Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: Think Stats by Allen Downey

Think StatsThink Stats by Allen B. Downey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Statistics gets a little respect in Operations research, in part because it gets taught as a bunch of formulas and computer procedures. And the problem with the way that it is taught is that the formulas don't mean anything, and the student may know her way around menus, but that does not mean that she knows under what circumstances to use what method. And everything is learned in isolation, often without practice in getting her hands dirty. Think Stats gives students the chance to get their hands dirty.

Because it uses a programming language (Python) it covers data analysis from beginning to end: viewing data, calculating descriptive statistics, identifying outliers, describing data using the distributions (and explaining what the distributions really mean!). Going through this small book, the goal is understanding and using statistics, not just learning statistics. I have a number of college undergraduate students working on projects. I have started giving them this to work on when they first start with me, both for the programming in Python and to learn statistics and data analysis so they can be useful.

I received a free electronic copy of Think Stats from the O'Reilly Blogger review program.

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