Jan 17

Review of Agresti and Franklin

Review of Agresti and Franklin "Statistics: The Art and Science of Learning from Data", 3rd edition

Who is this book for?

On the Internet you can find both positive and negative reviews. The ones that I saw on Goodreads.com and Amazon.com do not say much about the pros and cons. Here I try to be more specific.

The main limitation of the book is that it adheres to the College Board statement that "it is a one semester, introductory, non-calculus-based, college course in statistics". Hence, there are no derivations and no links between formulas. You will not find explanations of why Statistics works. As a result, there is too much emphasis on memorization. After reading the book, you will likely not have an integral view of statistical methods.

I have seen students who understand such texts well. Generally, they have an excellent memory and better-than-average imagination. But such students are better off reading more advanced books. A potential reader has to lower his/her expectations. I imagine a person who is not interested in taking a more advanced Stats course later. The motivation of that person would be: a) to understand the ways Statistics is applied and/or b) to pass AP Stats just because it is a required course. The review is written on the premise that this is the intended readership.

What I like

  1. The number and variety of exercises. This is good for an instructor who teaches large classes. Having authored several books, I can assure you that inventing many exercises is the most time-consuming part of this business.
  2. The authors have come up with good visual embellishments of graphs and tables summarized in "A Guide to Learning From the Art in This Text" in the end of the book.
  3. The book has generous left margins. Sometimes they contain reminders about the past material. Otherwise, the reader can use them for notes.
  4. MINITAB is prohibitively expensive, but the Student Edition of MINITAB is provided on the accompanying CD.

What I don't like

  1. I counted about 140 high-resolution photos that have nothing to do with the subject matter. They hardly add to the educational value of the book but certainly add to its cost. This bad trend in introductory textbooks is fueled to a considerable extent by Pearson Education.
  2. 800+ pages, even after slashing all appendices and unnecessary illustrations, is a lot of reading for one semester. Even if you memorize all of them, during the AP test it be will difficult for you to pull out of your memory exactly that page you need to answer exactly this particular question.
  3. In an introductory text, one has to refrain from giving too much theory. Still, I don't like some choices made by the authors. The learning curve is flat. As a way of gentle introduction to algebra, verbal descriptions of formulas are normal. But sticking to verbal descriptions until p. 589 is too much. This reminds me a train trip in Kazakhstan. You enter the steppe through the western border and two days later you see the same endless steppe, just the train station is different.
  4. At the theoretical level, many topics are treated superficially. You can find a lot of additional information in my posts named "The pearls of AP Statistics". Here is the list of most important additions: regression and correlation should be decoupled; the importance of sampling distributions is overstated; probability is better explained without reference to the long run; the difference between the law of large numbers and central limit theorem should be made clear; the rate of convergence in the law of large numbers is not that fast; the law of large numbers is intuitively simple; the uniform distribution can also be made simple; to understand different charts, put them side by side; the Pareto chart is better understood as a special type of a histogram; instead of using the software on the provided CD, try to simulate in Excel yourself.
  5. Using outdated Texas instruments calculators contradicts the American Statistical Association recommendation to "Use technology for developing concepts and analyzing data".


If I want to save time and don't intend to delve into theory, I would prefer to read a concise book that directly addresses questions given on the AP test. However, to decide for yourself, read the Preface to see how much fantasy has been put into the book, and you may want to read it.

3 Responses for "Review of Agresti and Franklin"

  1. […] this review I concentrate on how this book is similar to and different from  Agresti and Franklin. The book contains almost no formulas and in this respect is even more basic than Agresti and […]

  2. […] of praises and criticism I said about Agresti and Franklin apply to this book too. However, this book seems to me a little more rigorous, although the same […]

  3. […] other books I reviewed before (Agresti and Franklin, Albert and Rossman, Newbold, Carlson and Thorne, and Bock, Velleman, De Veaux), this one has […]

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