Smith Mathematics Sydney: Coach and Tutor

Smith Mathematics Coaching Sydney

Maths Coach from Year 10 to the HSC
Tuition on the North Shore from an experienced teacher
Expert Maths Tuition: Year 10 to Year 12 HSC

Phone: (02) 9498 8883

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Beware of Numbers

Smith Mathematics Coaching and Tuition Many scientific papers conclude that their findings are "significant". Almost any reader but a statistician will be fooled, because "significant" sounds so much like "a big deal". But statistical significance is a technical thing, meaning only that the result of the study probably isn't a fluke.

It is possible and common to have clinically trivial results that are nonetheless statistically significant. And it's also possible for results to be technically statistically significant and yet still have a better chance of being a coincidence than you might think.

What to do when you see a group of numbers which claim to prove something:

Some Questions to ask

  1. Can you check the numbers to see if they are correct?
  2. Can you repeat the experiment to see if you get the same results?
  3. Is time mentioned? When were the results gained? To what period of time do they refer?
  4. Can you easily understand the results or are they framed in technical terms?
  5. Did the collector of the results sign his/her name? Does he/she have a vested interest in the results?
  6. Have all the results been reported or just some meaningless average?
  7. Has the number of persons or things tested been stated? Are they typical of the population?
  8. Is the sample large enough?
  9. Was there a group for comparison?
  10. Were the persons being tested aware that they were being tested? (The 'HALO' effect).
  11. If presented in pictorial form (graph) does the choice of representation favour one interpretation of the results rather than another?
  12. Have all the results been included? What about results that contradict?
  13. Do the results have anything to do with what they claim to prove?
  14. Are numerical results too accurate? If 74.3% of the patients survived, then the result should have been stated as "more than 70% survived"
  15. If the word "average" is used, don't trust the result. There are many types of average, mean, median, mode, geometric mean, harmonic mean and, probably, others. Which one was used must be stated

If the answer to any of these is 'NO' then the conclusion is not valid!! Now read your newspaper!

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Smith Mathematics Coaching and Tuition
North Shore & Sydney
Phone: 9498-8883
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