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1301.6.55.001 - Tasmanian Statistical News, Jun 2009  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/06/2009   
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ARE YOU STATISTICALLY LITERATE?

In today's information-rich society, we encounter statistical information on a daily basis, ranging from unemployment rates, retail figures and cancer rates, to football ladders and cricket scores. Statistics tell interesting stories and enable us to make sense of the world. Statistics are essential for research, planning and decision-making purposes.

While it may be the issues rather than the statistics that grab people's attention, it should be recognised that it is the statistics that inform the issues. Being statistically literate means being equipped/having the ability to accurately understand, interpret and evaluate the data that inform these issues.

A lack of statistical literacy can result in misunderstandings and misrepresentation of data which can lead not only to erroneous conclusions, but a mistrust of statistics themselves.

If you are uncomfortable with using statistics, you are not alone. Many people shy away from using statistics because of their perceived complexity. People may:

  • not know where to look to find the information they need;
  • be unfamiliar with the terminology; and/or
  • lack confidence in their ability to make sense of the numbers.

You do not have to be an expert at maths to work with statistics!

Numeracy implies a basic competence in mathematics, a basic understanding of numbers and figures. It is certainly a prerequisite to being statistically literate, but statistical literacy is not about being adept at formulating or understanding the methodology behind the numbers. Statistical literacy requires a basic understanding of statistical concepts and is the ability to interpret the numbers and express that understanding in words.

Statistics may be presented in different ways, including tables, graphs, maps or text, or through numbers and symbols; they are not scary or boring if you know what they mean. For someone to be considered statistically literate, they need to be comfortable and competent with all of these forms.

There are several concepts that recur throughout the literature on statistical literacy. These fall into four key areas and can be considered in a practical manner as ‘criteria’ on which to base statistical literacy:
  • Data Awareness
  • The ability to understand statistical concepts
  • The ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate statistical information
  • The ability to communicate statistical information and understandings

In upcoming issues of Tasmanian Statistical News we will discuss these concepts in more detail. Meanwhile, if you would like to know more about statistical literacy and its relevance to you, check out the article: What is statistical literacy and why is it important to be statistically literate? as featured in Tasmanian State and Regional Indicators (cat. no. 1307.6).


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