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Activity Number: 168
Type: Topic Contributed
Date/Time: Monday, August 5, 2013 : 10:30 AM to 12:20 PM
Sponsor: Section on Statistical Education
Abstract - #308326
Title: The Relevance of Rhetoric to Statistical Literacy
Author(s): Joel Best*+
Keywords: rhetoric ; statistical literacy ; numeracy

Calls for greater statistical literacy often emphasize the need to improve mathematical skills; non-mathematical matters tend to be dismissed as "bias" (a convenient term, because it has both a technical meaning as any extraneous factor that affects an outcome, and a popular meaning as some sort of deliberate distortion). In practice, thinking critically about bias is a far more important aspect of statistical literacy than correcting shortcomings in mathematical understanding. Statistical literacy needs to incorporate an understanding of rhetoric (the study of persuasion). Statistics are enlisted to support particular arguments, and the people making those arguments are often convinced that their figures-as well as their conclusions-are sound. Critical statistical literacy requires thinking about rhetoric, about the way statistical evidence is used. Dubious statistics often involve rhetoric that links numbers to flawed reasoning. One effective way to incorporate rhetoric into teaching statistical literacy is to demonstrate that parallel patterns of erroneous reasoning may be found in advocates advancing opposing views.

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