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Statistics Hacks: Tips & Tools for Measuring the World and Beating the Odds Paperback – May 19, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0596101640 ISBN-10: 0596101643 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Hacks
  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (May 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596101643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596101640
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bruce Frey, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology and research in education at the University of Kansas. Previous books include "Online Auctions! I Didn't Know You Could Do That " published by Sybex and, with Neil Salkind, "eBay Online Auctions: Effective Buying and Selling with eBay" published by Muska & Lipman. He is an award-winning teacher of statistics, research design, and measurement. Bruce enjoys movies and collecting comic books, especially those early 1960s DCs with the cool checkered flag pattern. (Note to his tenure committee: In the research field of education, he is also an author of fifty scholarly publications and papers.)

Customer Reviews

The tips are clear and easy to understand and the author's writing style makes it enjoyable to read.
E. Mcclain
The rest of the chapter discusses gambling games, like Texas Hold'Em, Roulette (kittens love the shiny wheel...), Blackjack, and the lottery.
Scott Ellsworth
I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to put their knowledge of statistics to work with some truly fascinating tricks and hacks.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Warren Kelly VINE VOICE on July 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
In a previous academic life, I was a marketing major. One of the things marketers have to learn is statistics - the art/science of describing the world in terms of numbers and proportions. So I have a background in statistics, however basic, and that helped me in reading this book.

The first two sections in Statistics Hacks aren't really hacks; they serve as a basic statistics textbook. If your eyes glaze over at terms like "standard deviation," "correlation coefficient," "Z-scores," etc., you will have a tough time getting through the first 100 pages or so. But don't skip them - they are the foundation that the rest of the book is built on. You won't understand why a lot of the hacks later on in the book work unless you read the first 100 pages, and understanding why is a key to hacking anything, whether it's a computer network, an RC car, or the laws of mathematics and probability. Even if you've got a rudimentary understanding of probability, you will be well-advised to read the first hundred pages, as a refresher course if nothing else.

Chapter 3 is where the application begins. Frey teaches us how to understand percentile scores in standardized tests, and how to use a "normal curve" (think bell curve) to predict the future. The normal curve is vital to the rest of the book, so pay close attention to Hack # 25. Frey also teaches us how to establish the reliability of a certain test, how to establish its validity, and what the difference actually is between reliable and valid. We get a hint of the goodies to come in Hack # 33 (Predicting the Length of a Lifetime) and # 34 (Make Wise Medical Decisions).

Chapter 4 and 5 will be the most popular chapters in the book, Beating the Odds and Playing Games.
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124 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Scott Davies on October 27, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a statistics expert, but in the first 10 pages of this book I've already found two significant errors, the latter of which is particularly horrendous. Either the author is clueless about statistics -- a frightening thought since he supposedly teaches statistics as a professor -- or the editing of this book by statistics-clueful people was basically nonexistent. I'll assume the latter, but either way, this book is a blot on O'Reilly's record.

Page 5:
"The mean will be close to some scores and far away from some others, but if you add up those distances, you get a total that is as small as possible."

Wrong. The mean minimizes the sum of SQUARED distances; the MEDIAN minimizes the sum of the distances. Hand-waving on the next page apologizing for how complicated the formula for the standard deviation is because "there are some mathematical complications with summing distances" would suggest to me that the omission of "squared" on page 5 was not a mere typo or a misguided attempt at simplification.

OK, sure, one error like that isn't worth trashing a book over, particularly a book for lay people (albeit those with a technical bent). But check out this howler on page 10:

"Additive rule: the probability of any one of several independent events occuring is the *sum* of each event's probability." [Emphasis on "sum" is the book's, not mine.]

This isn't just plain wrong; it's cringe-inducingly, forehead-slappingly wrong. The additive rule is for any one of several mutually exclusive events occuring, and independent pretty much implies *not* mutually exclusive (the annoying corner cases being those where some events under consideration are completely impossible anyhow).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Elihu D. Feustel on June 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
I've read many books on statistics, but none were as readable as this. For each concept it teaches, it gives a real-world example of how to use it. This last feature makes it vastly superior to most college-level statistics textbooks. In addition to these examples, it is very well written and an "easy read", even if you are not a math expert (although it is conceptually sequential - if you are unfamiliar with math, the book is easier to read start to finish than hopping to the middle).

From a gambler's perspective, this information is mandatory. If you aspire to be a serious gambler and haven't put in the time to master statistics, $30 is well spent on this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David J. Aldous on May 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
75 four-page sections on topics in statistics and probability, some textbook and some "popular science" and some nicely different. Brisk user-friendly style. Provides a useful view of a big picture of statistics for someone who's taken a dull statistics course in college. But this potentially great book is spoiled by too many misleading statements (almost everything we measure in the natural world [follows] the normal curve (#25); the more instances you can get [in a multiple regression analysis] the more accurate your eventual predictions will be (#55)). Wikipedia entries on the topics will probably be better written and more accurate.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ueberhund VINE VOICE on September 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Most people really hate statistics, although I'm not sure why. In college, I enjoyed the subject so much, that I earned an advanced degree in it. With that begin said, I'm always a bit leery of non-academic statistics books. Those that I have seen in the past generally have poor science or are more boring than a Ph.D. candidate's dissertation. Imagine my surprise when I read this book and found it both fun to read and scientifically correct!

This book is laid out like a typical O'Reilly "hacks" book. Each section is a "hack" or tip related to the overall subject of the book. However, I was really pleased with the organization of the hacks in this book. The hacks really closely follow the same order of concepts that students cover in an introductory statistics course. The author begins with discussing the basics of statistics (mean, median, standard deviation), and from there, works up to graphing, and predicting. However, these concepts are discussed in a way that makes it fun to read and seem really applicable to the real world.

While the first half of the book covers the basics of statistics, the last half shows how to apply these concepts to the real world. The author shows through example after example that probability really works, how it works, and why it's fun to understand. In some examples, he shows how knowing the probabilities of casino blackjack can dramatically increase your chances of winning. Other fun probability exercises include how to win at Monopoly (or at least increase your chances of winning), checking how "honest" your iPod's random feature is, and how to predict the winners of sporting events.

This is a really fun book to read and is based on solid statistical methodologies. This book is an absolute must if you need to understand the basics of statistical techniques, methologies, and theory. If more students used this book as their introductory statistics text, we'd likely have a lot more statisticians.
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