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Statistics has gotten a reputation for being a very hard class, especially when taken in college, because it combines math concepts in order to form an analysis of a data set that can be used to understand an association in the data (whoo that was a mouthful). Some of the individual concepts included in statistics are difficult but statistics as a whole is not; it is simply a tool that can be used to answer questions one has about a data set. Given this, statistics can be applied to almost any area of study, it is a vital course to understand. There are several reasons why college statistics is perceived to be harder than it is and I will be running through why it is deemed hard, how it compares to other math classes like algebra, how hard statistics is in college, and why the class should be taken in college by most students.

Why do people find statistics so hard?

Statistics as a concept basically provide practical explanations through statistical tests to answer questions brought about by a desire to understand the association of different components of a dataset. At its core, statistics uses basic math, like algebra, in word problems to understand the significance of an association between different variables of interest. Every day, people are exposed to statistical concepts like probabilities, but just because they are exposed does not mean that they understand them or know how to interpret them properly. This is what a class like statistics teaches and once a student learns how to approach a certain problem, the actual mathematical computations and analysis are pretty simple.

Breaking down some of the reasons why people find statistics so hard begins with the formulas themselves. The formulas look complicated, involve other important statistical concepts, and can only be applied to a specific situation. This makes it vital for students to recognize what formula to use in a given context, which can be difficult to recognize, but once this is figured out, the process of solving a formula really just involves plugging in numbers and using simple algebra. It also helps that most statistics functions can be performed in a graphing calculator, requiring very little arithmetic and demanding understanding of what functions to use to get the correct analysis. SoFlo Tutors can help students make sense of these complicated formulas.

Statistics is also deemed difficult because many times, it is taught out of context; concepts appear to be coming out of nowhere instead of being based in real-life scenarios, which is where statistics truly lies. The only way to learn how to correctly use statistics is to use it in applications and understand the implications that the results of the analysis that were performed have in that context. 

Is statistics harder than algebra?

Both statistics and algebra introduce abstract concepts, but the main difference in these classes is that the concepts introduced in statistics are harder to grasp at first than in algebra because they are less concrete and harder to visualize. Algebra focuses on providing definitions for why mathematical concepts work when applied to equations. There are often many ways to solve a single problem correctly making understanding the fundamentals of why these straightforward theorems work vital. In statistics, algebraic fundamentals are applied in formulas that are used to answer a specific question. Only one kind of formula can be used to answer each specific kind of question, making statistics involve much more memorization of what formula to use and when and less about why each formula works.

In answering if statistics is harder, it depends on each student’s comfortability with different learning processes because statistics and algebra are inherently different. Statistics requires a lot more memorization and a deeper level of analysis/inference skills while algebra requires little memorization and very little analysis outside of algebraic applications. In other words, doing well in either statistics or algebra is subjective because it truly depends on how a student’s brain works. This does not mean that students can’t do well in both, but that it may take more time to learn statistics if a student struggles with analysis processes. Students struggling with statistics may invest in math tutoring so they can catch up on core concepts.

How hard is statistics in college?

As previously discussed, the hardest part of statistics is figuring out how to approach each problem. Once the correct logic is understood and correct formulas are selected to answer a certain problem type, the actual math computation is relatively easy and involves basic algebra and calculator skills. Taking statistics at the college level does not make the subject any harder and, in fact, the same material is often taught at the high school level. The only difference between and high school level statistics class and a college one are the scenarios introduced and amount of data used in the analysis; the subject matter is the same. The easiest way to ensure that a student does well in a college statistics class is to focus time on being able to translate the basic definitions introduced in the beginning of the class into the processes required to solve the problem they are in.

Should I take statistics in college?

Statistics is a class that everyone, regardless of their area of study, should think about taking. The advantages of the way students learn to think about the world around them after taking a statistics class can be applied to every subject. A student should take a statistics class if they are:

  • Studying math or statistics in college: this is obvious, but statistics is fundamental to learning how to properly analyze and synthesize data and the subjects later studied in college will only build on what is taught in a general statistics class.
  • Thinking about doing research in any field: Taking statistics trains the mind on the processes of organizing data as well as teaches the necessary information on how to properly run and test hypotheses, including how to carry out samples, and what tests are supposed to be run in certain experiments. Research cannot be carried out without an understanding of the basic principles of statistics.
  • Planning on entering the workforce in fields like business, healthcare, engineering, etc.: Numbers and data are everywhere in every field so learning the fundamentals of data analysis is essential to success in work environments in today’s day and age.

Statistics is a very important subject that every student in their undergrad should take regardless of their major. It may be difficult at first, but it is just like learning a new language; once the basics are understood and practiced, it becomes much easier and almost second nature over time. Statistics does not deserve the bad reputation that it has been given because at its core, it is not a very difficult class. Once a student understands the processes of analysis required for specific question types, answers statistical questions is not difficult. The benefits of learning this analysis while in high school or in college can help set a student up for success in subject outside of statistics as well as in life outside of college.

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