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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Cartoons of dragons, witches explain statistics

 
 

An associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Statistics, Alan Dabney, has found a new way to convey statistics to non-statisticians – cartoons.
In his new book “The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics,” Dabney explains basic statistical concepts, such as confounding, probability, hypothesis testing, standard deviations and sampling distribution using cartoons of dragons, witches and Vikings.
“I want to make it easier for non-math people to access and benefit from statistics,” Dabney said. “I think there are a lot of people in the world, not just math majors, who could greatly benefit from having basic tools for extracting confident information from data.”
Dabney co-authored the book with cartoonist Grady Klein, the creator of the graphic novel series “The Lost Colony” and co-author and illustrator of “The Cartoon Introduction to Economics” Volumes I and II on micro and macro economics.
“Grady is not a statistician, and I’m certainly not an expert story teller,” Dabney said. “He would continually ask, ‘What does probability mean in plain English, and why do I care?’ It was a challenge, but a good challenge, which is why I think it’s going to be a good book.”
Klein discussed his views on the book, explaining its genesis, how this book will help people understand statistics and why it’s important that
they do.
“The book grew out of Alan’s [Dabney] desire to communicate the basics of statistics more effectively,” he said. “My own role was to create cartoons and stories to help achieve that end. Statistics can feel like a thorny subject, but our strong conviction is that it needn’t feel that way. The tools of statistics are not only powerful and helpful, they’re also fantastically clever and fun. In the end we created a book that’s funny and approachable, that provides a solid, thorough introduction to statistics.”
The give-and-take process between Dabney and Klein continued and culminated into a 225 page story detailing statistics concepts in a way that is easy to understand. The book debuted June 2 on Amazon and other sites.
Dabney envisions the book not as a replacement to a textbook, but a “supplement that will help readers develop a solid grasp of the key concepts and give students, especially non-statistics majors, a better ability to understand more in-depth details in textbooks.”
Stephen Turner, an ’08 a business management graduate and a recent masters’ graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design in Design Management, talked about how students will likely react to the book. Turner and Dabney work together on research about future teaching technique.
“Statistics is a complicated discipline and is daunting to many students, especially those that have no background in statistics or math in general,” he said. “Students come to class expecting it to be difficult and they are immediately bombarded with definitions that do nothing to ease their nerves. By introducing the concepts of statistics in a more relaxed form, in this case through illustration, the students are shown that it is not as difficult to understand as they thought.”
“The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics” has received positive preliminary reviews.
Publishers Weekly called it “delightful,” and the Kirkus review stated that “there is some inevitable simplification here – as they note, ‘in practice…conditions are often more complex’-but Klein and Dabney give a smart, enjoyable overview of this most useful branch of mathematics.”

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