Many readers in applied areas (business, health, psychology & sociology, education, and several others) are reading statistics texts under duress for a course or project, and are in truth somewhere between disinterested and terrified. In my new SAS Press book Business Statistics Made Easy in SAS® I knew that I had to maximize the use of several classic pedagogical methodologies to facilitate reader understanding, while minimizing the use of mathematical development. These are all well-known and are used in many statistical texts; however, this blog mentions some of these key explanatory techniques and gives a few tips for successful use.

I believe that the key techniques for non-technical explanation are:

1. Metaphors: we’ll cover this in more detail in this blog
2. Pictures & diagrams
3. Organizational cases / vignettes
4. Storytelling

Making metaphors work

In this technique, we compare a statistical concept to some other concept in life to which readers can relate. For example, in Business Statistics Made Easy in SAS®:

• The concept of statistical modeling is explained using star signs.
• The difference between correlation and covariance is illustrated using an adaptation of the classic ‘butterfly effect’ from chaos theory.
• I employ a courtroom argument to try to anchor p-values.

In easily relating to the metaphor, the statistical concept becomes more easily understood so long as the overlaps are explained well. I believe that metaphors are the best alternative to mathematics for explaining abstract concepts. The key success factors are:

1. The metaphor should be familiar to the reader.
2. The metaphor should be visually striking and memorable! Consider showing a video clip in a class to prep the metaphor (e.g. from the movie ‘The Butterfly Effect’ for the example above).
3. The metaphor should have sufficient overlap with the statistical concept to allow for the comparison to make sense.
4. However, the metaphor should be sufficiently different from the concept that the comparisons are thought provoking.

In further blogs, I will unpack various metaphors that are used in Business Statistics Made Easy in SAS® for those interested in their use.

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