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:
- Metaphors: we’ll cover this in more detail in this blog
- Pictures & diagrams
- Organizational cases / vignettes
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:
- The metaphor should be familiar to the reader.
- 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).
- The metaphor should have sufficient overlap with the statistical concept to allow for the comparison to make sense.
- 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.