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Head First Statistics Review by Kathy Gelzer

Dawn Griffiths
O'Reilly Media
1005 Gravenstein Highway North
Sebastopol, CA 95472

The format of this hefty text on statistics reminds me of the popular "Dummies" series. Most of the 660 pages are made up of almost as many graphics (in the form of photos, charts, diagrams, tables, and illustrations) as text. Even the multi-page table of contents is illustrated. This design choice is justified in three pages of the introduction, where the creators of the Heads First series describe their philosophy of learning--lots of visual aids, a conversational writing style, challenges to the reader's thinking, attention-getting devices, appeals to the emotions, creative repetition, and stories and examples the reader can relate to. One whole page is devoted to some excellent learning tips for the student. These would apply to almost any subject.

Head First Statistics has 15 chapters: "Visualizing Information"; "Measuring Central Tendency"; "Measuring Spread"; "Calculating Probabilities"; "Discrete Probability Distributions"; "Permutations and Combinations"; "Geometric, Binomial and Poisson Distributions"; "Normal Distribution" Parts I and II; "Using Statistical Sampling"; "Estimating Your Population"; "Constructing Confidence Intervals"; "Using Hypothesis Tests"; "The Chi Square Distribution"; and "Correlation and Regression." Each chapter features a different hypothetical business in "Statsville," such as The Statsville Derby, The Statsville All Star basketball team, or Fat Dan's Casino. Two appendices ("The Top Things We Didn't Cover" and "Statistics Tables") and an index round out the book.

Plenty of humor is included. On the page describing who this book is for, there is a little parenthetical remark at the bottom of the page: "Note from marketing: this book is for anyone with a credit card."

The only prerequisite listed for this book is a familiarity with basic algebra. It is written to the high school or college student and will prepare him for the AP Statistics exam. Head First Statistics would appeal to the visual learner or a non-traditional learner. The amount of non-text material might prove distracting to some students. The creators are clear on a couple points. This is not a reference book but a "learning" book to be read from cover to cover, and the chapter exercises are mandatory.

I would recommend this comprehensive book on statistics for anyone at high school level or above who is studying the subject or for those interested in learning more about statistics.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2009