The Manga Guide to Statistics

The Manga Guide to Statistics

Manga Guide to StatisticsThe Manga Guide to Statistics Leave it to the Japanese to come up with a way to combine manga and education, thus making something that takes a difficult or seemingly difficult topic and place it in a format the Japanese are quite comfortable with. This is why The Manga Guide to Statistics is a success in Japan and why No Starch Press hopes it will be a success in the U.S. as well.

The format works well in Japan because, as I mentioned, the Japanese grow up with manga. Manga is more than an otaku pastime in Japan, so taking a subject like statistics and placing it into a manga format means that the stigma and tediousness of a normal textbook are gone in favor of the fun of a manga that is also quite educational.

In the U.S., manga is a growing market, but still not quite mainstream. It would seem that No Starch Press has taken this into consideration as the book is not published in traditional Japanese format (right to left), but rather the traditional left-to-right western format. However, because there is a significant amount of Japanese and English text in the original art, it did not appear to me that much, if any, of the art had been flipped, something that one can quickly spot in older, flipped manga titles in the U.S. (the old Oh My Goddess manga for example). So I checked with No Starch Press and this is what they told me.

The original “Manga Guide to Statistics” book was published in the left-to-right western style, so, no, we did not need to flip the artwork as it was already aligned in the western style.

I’m not exactly sure why Ohmsha, Ltd (the original publisher of the book) published the books in the western style. It does look like all of their original manga guides are left-to-right style.

So that is an interesting twist in that the Japanese published this western style to begin with. Works for me.

No Starch Press has opted for a removal of Japanese honorifics, so no “sensei,” “san,” or other such things. I still say that using “Mr.” in lieu of “san” or “sensei” makes the English reading just as weird because today, using “Mr.” is just not that common as it was, say 20-30 years ago. As such, it makes Rui’s speech seem oddly formal in a non-formal setting whereas leaving “san” or “sensei” in would just be “Japanese.” However, I dare say that this is likely not going to be an issue to those wishing to learn statistics since most of them would likely not be hard-core anime/manga fans like myself. Still, I don’t think that leaving the Japanese honorifics in would have been a bad thing considering how Japanese much of the rest of the book is.

Moving to the content of the book, in true manga form, we have a story which is at the core of learning statistics. Rui is a junior (2nd year) high school girl who’s father brings home his young, handsome, co-worker “Mr. Igarashi.” Rui is smitten with Iragashi and since he works in marketing (using statistics), Rui comes up with a plan to be able to spend time with Iragashi by telling her father she’s interested in learning statistics and would love it if he gets one of his co-workers to tutor her. Naturally, her father is ecstatic by this but to Rui’s dismay, her teacher is the young Mr. Yamamoto, who wears thick glasses, and not Mr. Igarashi. Still, Rui decides to make the best of it so she’ll learn statistics so that she can be on the same level as Igarashi.

The book is broken down into seven chapters. Topics covers are “Determining Data Types,” “Understanding Numerical Data,” “Understanding Categorical Data,” “Standard Score and Deviation Score,” “Probability,” “Relationship Between Two Variables,” and “Hypothesis Tests.” Each chapter starts with the manga, with Yamamoto providing scenarios based on things Rui likes or can relate to (ramen restaurants, school uniforms, bowling with friends, etc.). Sometimes, the lessons are set in Rui’s bedroom and other times places like the park or a coffee shop. Rui’s friend Yumi also is featured in some chapters.

After the general lesson is gone over in the manga portion (which is filled with some fun moments as well as an occasional reminder to the reader as to why Rui is bothering to learn statistics), the end of each chapter is dedicated to a more serious look at the educational material covered, followed by an exercise session with answers and a summary of what was covered. Hopefully, the lighter way of presenting the materials in the manga section will make things in the more technical section have greater meaning to the reader.

The end of the book is dedicated to Excel spreadsheets for the different lessons covered, which can either be manually created or downloaded from the web.

So, will this work? Will people who read this actually learn statistics?

I think those in high school or college who are having trouble learning statistics AND at least like comics or manga (or anime) will get something positive from this. Even though I haven’t been in a math class for over 20 years, things made a great deal of sense to me after reading this. However, I do think that one will need to have a fresher perspective of math than I. Some of the things in the formulas used are discussed in the manga (in a fun way), but not everything. As such, I don’t think this will be as helpful to someone like me who decides, “I’ll learn some statistics” out of the blue because I would need to make sure some other math skills were up to speed. For those who’ve been taking math classes in high school or college, I think this book will be very helpful in making statistics easier to understand.

Bottom line: This book takes a novel approach to make what might seem a tedious, boring math topic and turn it into something fun and educational at the same time. I don’t think this will be a book that people who just read manga will like despite the fun storyline that runs through it because its goal is to teach someone statistics. Therefore, I would recommend this book for those looking for a fun way to learn statistics who have a need to do so.

As an aside, No Starch Press is planning to release a whole series of learning manga books.

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