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The Real Use of Statistical Tools

The Real Use of Statistical Tools

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real-use-statisticsBy Leonard Kelly
Mathematics Professor, American Public University

Statistics are everywhere. We can’t escape them.

Marketers use statistics to learn about what we eat, what shows we watch on TV, and what we wear. Corporate leaders use statistics to forecast sales, revenue, and profits, and to assist in nearly every facet of corporate planning. Strategists use statistics to determine how to deploy resources, how many, what kind, for how long, and when to maximize various objectives. Politicians use statistics to determine how to advertise, what issues to explore, and who to promote for certain offices. Sports teams use statistics to help determine the mix of skill sets that will help them improve their winning percentages, and statistics are certainly in play when we make a purchase online, respond to surveys, buy insurance, or purchase a warranty.

Statistics are at the core of solutions for some of the most vexing problems in our world. Consider the disruption to the air transportation system caused by severe weather or other unplanned calamities and the numerous variables utilized in order to return that system to normal. Crew constraints, passenger needs, aircraft types, the number of gates available, travel time, flight connections, and costs are all part of managing the disruption that occurs when such a finely-tuned system fails. Programs used by air transportation system staff to  reset in short order–even under conditions of a total shutdown like the one experienced on 9-11–are powered by statistical tools.

Statistics, in a very real sense, impact all of us–and knowing how to generate them, how to apply them, how to interpret them, and how to learn from them is definitely important. At APU, we focus on these simple goals in our statistics courses:

  1. Learn about all of the various statistical tools
  2. Apply the right tool at the right time
  3. Interpret the results we derive so as to improve our decision making

No matter if one is managing the international delivery system of UPS or FedEx or deciding what kind of phone to buy, statistics play a role and understanding them is vital.

About the Author

Leonard Kelly is a professor of mathematics at American Public University. He has a BS degree in mathematics, an MS degree in operations research and his PhD in statistics. He has been an instructor and head of the Mathematics at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He has been with the APUS for over 6 years. 

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