Policy & Advocacy > Promoting Statistical Literacy to Policymakers

Promoting Statistical Literacy to Policymakers


Share your experiences and ideas for how best to illustrate to policymakers the importance of students being statistically literate. At the 2009 JSM congressional visits, some participants referred to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme saying that statistically literate clients would have become very suspicious by the lack of variation in the monthly return rates. Others referred to the selective data inspection in the Challenger disaster where scientists were said to consider only non-zero values of the O-ring response to cold temperatures. Further experiences are shared below. Share yours here!

What do you think the best way is to convince Members of Congress and their staff of the importance of statistical literacy?

I found it very easy and compelling to link statistical literacy (and the implied understanding of risk) to the broader economic collapse and the crises in the mortgage and consumer credit industries-statistically literate ... [see more below]

-Jim Cochran, Louisiana Tech University






See Recent Submissions here; Experiences from the 2009 JSM Congressional visits are below



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Read the experiences of fellow statisticians


The New York Times article was very helpful as a visual aid to get the conversation going... As with many other meetings, it seems that statistical literacy when connected with getting kids interested in STEM-related careers, economic development, and improving health care (better & cheaper) seems to get a positive response.

...[Dave's teach of] a course in "Statistics in Sports" … became a segue to discussing Statistical Literacy, the need to change the way we teach it to fit the times, it's impact on the economy and the importance … of attracting kids into STEM disciplines.

-Walt Stroup, University of Nebraska


I found it very easy and compelling to link statistical literacy (and the implied understanding of risk) to the broader economic collapse and the crises in the mortgage and consumer credit industries-statistically literate, analytic, critical thinking consumers understood early in this process that the conditions were unsustainable and that these markets were unstable, and these consumers used this understanding to avoid (as much as possible) the ramifications of the ultimate (and likely unavoidable) outcome. I was also able to connect statistical literacy to state/regional work force development/investment in human capital.

-Jim Cochran, Louisiana Tech University


Most of the staffers perceived statistics to just be the making of dry tables of summary numbers. They were all receptive to our clarifying that the field was really focused on critical thinking and methodology for the whole investigate process, from question formulation through data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The staffers all became very interested and shared our concerns over critical thinking skills. They did not realize that was what the profession was all about.

The staffer questioned how statistics could be taught in first grade (elementary education in general). Tammy [Tom] and I mentioned two exercises-an investigation comparing two chocolate chip cookie recipes to see which is crisper and an investigation making multiple measurements on leaves to demonstrate variation around a central value...

-Joel Reynolds, Anchorage, Alaska


[Staff] would like to see examples of statistical literacy for K-12 students,
...Would like to see recommendations for the K-12 curriculum

-Kathy Morrissey, Strategy 2 Market, Oak Park, Illinois

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