Stats Are Like A Fist Full Of Worms

wormsAlgebra is like an ox. It does a lot of work for us, obeys our commands and remains very predictable.

Geometry is like a puppy. It’s fun to play with, doesn’t ask for anything other than your attention, and doesn’t promise anything other than that in return.

Calculus is like a horse. It is gorgeous to watch when it runs, exhilarating to ride and takes us places we have never been before.

Statistics are like a fist full of worms. They wiggle around and are hard to get a hold of. They live underground, so you always have to dig deep to find them. Once you get one, you don’t know what to do with it other than stick it on a hook and cast it out into the ocean in hopes that it brings you back something useful.

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3 thoughts on “Stats Are Like A Fist Full Of Worms”

  1. This post received a great deal of positive attention. Some of the ardent Stats lovers, though, thought I was I dissing their beloved subject. Like my dear friend Hedge:

    ~Hedge~ ‏@approx_normal
    “I’m not sure I agree with that analogy. You make stats sound yucky/gross & kinda useless.”

    To be clear … Yucky & Gross? Yes. Useless? No.

    The analogy in this post came to me during my drive to school on the day I was teaching a guest lesson on Stats. I was excited and in a very happy space with statistics at the time. I was just anticipating the moment when students finally calculate their chi-squared value (topic of the day). In most other classes, the work is done once you “get your number.” In stats, though, that is the point when the thinking really starts. That is when the number must be cast out and reeled back in with an inference. Every stats teacher knows that interpreting the statistical calculations is the part that students struggle with. Thus, the worms.

    I make no apologies for claiming that statistics is not as clean and slick as algebra or calculus. But do know that I still find it to be just as useful and lovable.

  2. I agree about STATS. I’ve always found it “yucky and gross”, useless, no. I’m struggling with your geometry analysis though. While I have found it to be fun to play with, I also think it has given me quite a bit. It has made me look at the world differently, how things relate and how foundations are so important. It has also allowed me to challenge students to see the same things, and to be excited at the revelations they have found in digging deeply into it and allowing themselves to be challenged by it.

    Thanks for this post and giving a callout to us to share it. I would have missed it, I’ve been struggling to find time to dig into everyone’s writing lately.

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