Statistics don’t lie, people do.

Someone said to me that you can make statistics say anything. This is true if you lie and change the numbers. For example if you say, “Our company is doing great. Our revenue was 5 billion dollars” and you your expenses were 6 billion dollars then the truth is that you lost 1 billion dollars. The lie wasn’t in the statistics it was in the statement “Our company is doing great.” If your revenue was 4 billion dollars last year then you had an increase in revenue of 1 billion dolars, but since your expenses were 6 billion dollars you still lost a lot of money.

So the next time someone quotes a statistic ask them for the rest of the story.

Hands on Astrophysics has a very good article about the the proper use of statistics. Unfortunately it’s not easy to get to. When you click on the link to the article it takes you to a PDF file for a variable star curriculum. At the end of the document there is a section called Math Talk. This is where the discussion of statistics begins.

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