You may have listened to sports commentaries when the commentator says “and now for some statistics”. The word ‘statistics’ here refers to things such as how many times these teams have played in the past, what the results were, details of how many goals a particular player has scored and when, and so on.
Sometimes, as in football and basketball, the figures can be very detailed. This does not give a good idea of what statistics is about. It sounds boring, and often is. Statistics is not just collecting a lot of numbers – it is collecting numbers for a purpose.
Statistics changes numbers into information. Statistics is the art and science of deciding what are the appropriate data to collect, deciding how to collect them efficiently and then using them to answer questions, draw conclusions and identify solutions.
Statistics is about making decisions when there is uncertainty. We have to make decisions all the time in everyday life and as part of our jobs. Statistics helps us to make better decisions.
For example statistical thinking is used in:
- measuring changes in the environment to see the effects of global warming
- measuring changes in population patterns to see what type of housing is needed and where
- analysing experiments on using fertilisers to increase growth of crops
- measuring the effectiveness of different medicines to find the best and to identify side effects
- calculating how likely it is that two people have the same DNA profile.
What kind of jobs use statistics?
Check out the Job Profiles page to see the kind of careers you could have that use and/or produce a lot of interesting statistics.