# Developing Statistical Literacy

- These papers by Milo Shield could be used as professional reading by teachers, for discussion.

## Resources

All too often statistics are characterized as lies. But statistics are more likely to be half truths than lies. This paper studies statistical prevarication – the art of straddling both sides of an issue or idea – involving a statistic. This paper studies statistical prevarications in everyday use and in statistics education. If statistics educators are to avoid a charge of statistical negligence, they should focus more on identifying and eliminating sources of statistical prevarication in their teaching and textbooks. And statistical educators should do more to help students become statistically literate in detecting statistical prevarication.

The GAISE College report suggested that teachers assess statistical literacy by students “interpreting or critiquing articles in the news.” Media stories typically present summary statistics to support non-statistical conclusions. Summary statistics require hypothetical thinking which in turn requires drill in factual exercises involving deductive right-wrong answers. This paper presents a wide range of deductive exercises that may help students develop the hypothetical thinking needed to deal with the fact that all statistics are socially constructed. This paper presents 130 different topics involving fact-based exercises with objective answers. Of these, 50% are numerical, 30% are number-related and 20% are non-numeric. Selected examples are presented. At least half of these exercises have been used by students in a web-based format. These exercises are classified by topics in traditional research statistics and in statistical literacy.

Statistical literacy is analyzed from three different approaches: chance-based, fallacy-based and correlation-based. The three perspectives are evaluated in relation to the needs of employees, consumers, and citizens. A list of the top 35 statistically based trade books in the US is developed and used as a standard for what materials statistically literate people should be able to understand. The utility of each perspective is evaluated by reference to the best sellers within each category. Recommendations are made for what content should be included in pre-college and college statistical literacy textbooks from each kind of statistical literacy.

Students in majors that do not require a math or statistics course are often unbelievers in the value and power of statistics. If statistical educators are to serve the quantitative needs of these students, they must be evangelists to non-believers rather than being ministers to believers; they must focus on statistical literacy rather on statistical competence. They must be called to help students see the value of statistics in everyday situations; they must measure teaching effectiveness based more on improvements in students’ attitudes toward statistics than in students’ knowledge of statistics.