Statistics – Why Is It So Intimidating?

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Statistics is a phrase that strikes fear into the greater part of the world, regardless of whether you’re a student or not.  The big question is why — why does statistics put the fear of God in even the average citizen?  Considering that the only “statistics” we see in our daily lives is “60% of Americans prefer milk over water after a slice of chocolate cake” what reason does it have to make us cower?

Statistics - Sample Standard Deviation

Does that picture scare you?  What if I told you that this is a formula formally taught within the first few weeks of an introductory statistics class?  It’s something called sample standard deviation, a measure of variance, or in more plain terms, a measure of how spread out numbers in a data set are.  Broken into its individual pieces, this formula isn’t intimidating and is actually on par with eighth grade arithmetic.  As you’ll see in many of my blog posts, the issue is with how it’s taught.

Statistics is mainly taught in Greek symbols, much like a majority of our more advanced math.  This in it of itself makes it more intimidating, but why should a few letters scare you away?  After all, we are in the modern day; the age where calculators are capable of taking the legwork out of any mathematical calculation.

Statistics in its truest form is simply the interpretation of the numbers derived from these kinds of computations.  It’s the analysis and conclusions made from these that actually composes the discipline.  As an educator myself, I hate to place blame on other educators, and perhaps the issue is deeper than that, but the way statistics is taught these days at the collegiate level inherently scares away anyone who might find even a modicum of interest.  As an aside, the amount of business statistics tutoring clients I’ve had that became intensely fascinated with this same discipline after a few lessons is astounding.  Taking a step away from it’s societal association with math, you end up with a pure science that has a lot to give people.  Many of my statistics tutoring students even after reaching their goals of simply passing, continue to take classes to explore the science itself.

The theory of statistics and it’s role in the world today (seriously, there isn’t a part of your everyday life that it isn’t involved in) is worth studying.  It’s far deeper than just equations, and even if it’s just a class for a semester, having a tutor alongside not only gets you to pass, but allows you to see this modern day role.

Why Are Online Math Classes So Difficult?

If you’ve ever tried to take a math class online, you’ve felt the feeling of helplessness that comes after the first few weeks.  Sociology, biology, humanities — none of them pose near as much trouble as online statistics or math.  So what makes them so difficult?   There’s many, many reasons for this.


Poor Study Materials

You ever wonder why you buy that crazy expensive math textbook even though you only end up doing homework from it?  Some professors might ask you to read a lesson or two, but overall you rely on in-person lecture to give you information.  It’s because these textbooks aren’t made for self-study, they’re meant to be a supplement to actual lecture.  Essentially, your professor teaches you the entire lecture (or what portions he wants you to learn) and you refer to the beginning of the chapter if/when you need help.

Online classes skip this lecture portion, often only providing a PowerPoint with examples.  The problem is they aren’t any different than those used in class, so the entire explanation by the professor is just.. missing.  Such minimal effort is put into these online classes that it’s made simply impossible to tackle on your own.  The best of online math professors will provide video examples, but again, without a lecture these are completely useless.  Even with years of math tutoring under our belts, they can even test our abilities.


Little to No Support

The biggest issue with online math classes is the process you’re expected to go through when you have trouble with a lesson.  Either you a) contact the professor through e-mail (good luck explaining your process or showing him the steps with a keyboard) or you b) visit an on-site tutoring center, defeating the purpose of an online class in the first place.  To boot, these centers are typically understaffed meaning what we might get done in an entire hour with you would take you four there.


The point of hiring a math tutor isn’t always to provide a personalized learning plan.  For many, it’s worth the extra cost to save the time.  You have to ask yourself in the midst of one of these classes: what is your time worth?  Can you afford four hours in a tutoring center to finish one assignment?  Or are those extra three hours worth shelling out the cash for a math tutor?

The problem here is systemic, and is an issue with many online classes as a whole, math just gets it the worst.  Until someone (whoever that might be) addresses the issue that is online schooling, an entirely independent math class might never exist.