Duh-Duh-DUH!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My new quarter starts on Monday, and I have signed up for a required statistics class.

I'm not a huge fan of mathematics in general, and while I recognize that statistics isn't really a discipline of mathematics, the fact that numbers are involved is a bit intimidating to me. I suspect my discomfort can be directly attributed to the fact that I've just never put in sufficient effort to be successful in mathematics, and then convinced myself that I didn't "get it." I know I have the native ability to do the work - my father completed master's level work in mathematics before settling into economics, for Christ's sake, and thought statistics was the cat's pajamas. Surely I can do college level mathematics with that kind of legacy. Can't I?

I'm planning on spending more time on this class than I have on the "softer" classes I've taken to date, in the hopes that additional effort on my part might lead to an outcome of which I can be proud. I keep telling myself that stretching myself in this manner is a good thing. One of the points of my continuing education is to push my mind in an effort to stave off the Mad Cow, and taking courses that are easy for me doesn't really suit that purpose. Statistics, however...statistics fits the bill.

I recognize that I'm just nervous because intellectual vulnerability is not a feeling I'm very familiar with, and it really kind of blows. But I'll never know what I'm capable of if I don't try.

Duh, duh, duh!


Cartoon by Ben Shabad.

23 comments:

Random Michelle K said...

I hate simple math, and am lousy at it (as my entire family will attest) but I loved statistics (and geometry, and algebra...)

You get to use a calculator for one thing, and for another, all my stats professors allowed a formula "cheat sheet" so long as you understand HOW to apply the various formulas, you'll do fine.

Really! Statistics are fun!

Phiala said...

Statistics are how you know if (when) people are lying to you.

Statistics are an antidote for the human tendency to see patterns even if they don't exist.

Hm, I can't think of a third statement to round out the set.

But seriously, if you get into trouble, feel free to yell. Not that I can tutor effectively long distance, but I can point you toward some of the better internet resources.

I, um, I write stats software for fun. No really.

vince said...

I love math and did well at it, and I loved statistics. Much can be learned and applied to the real world. A knowledge of statistics is very useful for ferreting out math weasels making bullshit claims about all sorts of things.

I agree with Michelle. Statistics are fun!

Janiece said...

Thanks for the support and offers of help, y'all. Objectively, I know I can do this. Subjectively, I'm just a bit panicky.

Anne C. said...

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
- Mark Twain's Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

Mrs. Bitch said...

Huh.

I'm good at math, too, and have gone through calc and diff. equations. I bailed when I started hitting math theory. However, as usual, I digress.

Statistics made me berserk. I remember what I hated most about it was that even though something made sense intuitively, that didn't mean it was correct statistically. Or something like that. They are, however, used in so many applications and fields of study that I really wish I had a better feel for them.

Obviously, I'm not your best choice to tap for help, but it sounds like you've got plenty of potential tutors here :^)

I hated stats and passed with a little effort -- hopefully you'll absolutely love them and fly through wanting more.

nzforme said...

I can't speak to Statistics because my focus was "Pure Mathematics," -- as though real world applications were just pesky little afterthoughts. (I like to say that I went so far into Mathematics, I reached the point where it turns around and becomes Philosophy.)

That said (and somewhat superficially contradictory to it), I find it sometimes helps to think of mathematics as a language. It isn't so much a field of study but simply a way of expressing (and discovering) truths about the world in which we live. Learn the language and its rules, you can describe the universe.

Nathan said...

I'll be happy to tutor you (if you're bucking for an "F").

:D

Carol Elaine said...

Math is hard. *simpering giggle*

What?

Seriously, though: I purely hate math, but am suprisingly good at its financial applications, doubtless due to my years in retail and hunting wild discrepancies in both the banking and entertainment industries. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that I no longer have to balance anything besides my checkbook.

The little I've seen of statistics makes my brain hurt.

Janiece said...

You guys make me laugh.

I have long suspected that in order to keep my brain functional I'm going to have to make a long-term foray into mathematics. Dangit.

Lance Weber said...

My academic bogeyman is - I shit you not - algorithms. Here's something I started doing with algo's and have used in different studies:

I make a file or paper list labeled IDFU (I Don't Fucking Understand...) - everytime I start having a major roadblock over a concept, I add it to the list. Then I pick something from the list, and start researching (simpler explanations, more examples, exercises, etc) until I grok it. Then, I cross it off the list.

The trick is - never destroy your IDFG list! Whenever that gremlin starts whispering that I'm too fucking dumb to ever succeed and I should just live with my ignorance, I look at IDFG list and count all the roadblocks I've crossed off the list to get this far...

Anyway, kinda long, hope it helps...

Janiece said...

Lance, taking statistics mid-way through my coursework (as opposed to "saving" it until the bitter end) is my version of that.

Random Michelle K said...

Really, statistics are fun!

And you can really geek out with statistics: Michael and I have had lots of discussions where we attempt to discover the true chances (probability) of something happening.

kimby said...

I fall into the Math is Hard camp...Numbers are not my strong point.....the kids know that if it has ANYTHING to do with Math to go ask Daddy, otherwise all they get from me is.... 0.o

John the Scientist said...

Good luck! I've had 3 different stats courses plus taught myself advanced biostats on the job. Let me know if you want help, if I don't know it, there are 3 Ph.D. statisticians within 5 doors of my current office.

neurondoc said...

Ah, statistics. I got through college-level calculus by the skin of my teeth and (after I got into med school) vowed never to take another math course again. Then during second semester of my 1st year they sprung statistics on us. We were taught stats by a (very bored) grad student who clearly did not want to be there. it was only a six-week course, and I came out of it with the understanding that if the p-value was < .05, then great -- whatever it is works.

That carried me through the rest of my training and the next ten years. Then I started my current job and realized that medical-related biostatistics is way more than p-values. What I know I have taught myself, which has been very hard for my math-challenged brain. Like John, there are a bunch of people with PhDs in biostatistics who work right nearby and I avail myself of their knowledge. Frequently.

Good luck. I am sure that you will just destroy the curve... :-D

Janiece said...

Natalie, I appreciate the offer of help, but I also have access to my Smart SIL (whom you've met). Her role as a epidemiologist makes her a good resource for me, too.

WendyB_09 said...

There are many things in this life I can help you with...higher math functions are not anywhere near that list. Yuck.

Good luck.

Steve Buchheit said...

Stats can be fun. Just ignore the math and you'll be okay. Or at least there's a 3 to 1 chance of it.

Cymryk said...

Statistics: The art of torturing numbers until they tell you what you want to hear. I got 100% for that definition on a final in a grad level stats class. I had to take two of those for my major and swore I'd never use them again. So, naturally, I am now a statistician (technically Geographer/Statistician, but still. Seriously tho... Statistics really isn't as hard as it is made out to be, and if we're talking about an undergrad class, it will be primarily probability, which is not difficult at all. I don't think I'd go so far as to say that statistics is (are?) fun, but definitely survivable..

Janiece said...

Welcome, Cymryk.

I know I'm making this far harder than it needs to be, but I appreciate the words of wisdom.

MWT said...

Stats is easy.

Either something will happen, or it won't necessarily happen. 50-50. :D

Janiece said...

MWT, I thought that was probability...

::snirk::