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Misuse of statistics

In many cases groups can gain an advantage by misleading people with the misuse of statistics.

Common techniques used include:

  • Three dimensional graphs.
  • Axes that do not start at zero.
  • Axes without scales.
  • Graphic images that convey a negative or positive mood.
  • Assumption that a correlation shows a necessary causality.
  • Using statistics that are not truly representative of the entire population.
  • Using misconceptions of mathematical concepts

For example, the following pairs of graphs show identical information but look very different. Explain why.

Exercises - misuse of statistics

  1. A company has tried to give a visual representation of the increase in their earnings from one year to the next. Does the graph below convince you? Critically analyse the graph.
    Click here for the solution
  2. In a study conducted on a busy highway, data was collected about drivers breaking the speed limit and the colour of the car they were driving. The data were collected during a 20 minute time interval during the middle of the day, and are presented in a table and pie chart below.
    • Conclusions made by a novice based on the data are summarised as follows:
    • “People driving white cars are more likely to break the speed limit.”
    • “Drivers in blue and red cars are more likely to stick to the speed limit.”
    • Do you agree with these conclusions? Explain.
    Click here for the solution
  3. A record label produces a graphic, showing their advantage in sales over their competitors. Identify at least three devices they have used to influence and mislead the readers impression.
    Click here for the solution
  4. In an effort to discredit their competition, a tour bus company prints the graph shown below. Their claim is that the competitor is losing business. Can you think of a better explanation?
    Click here for the solution
  5. To test a theory, 8 different offices were monitored for noise levels and productivity of the employees in the office. The results are graphed below.
    The following statement was then made: “If an office environment is noisy, this leads to poor productivity.”Explain the flaws in this thinking.
    Click here for the solution

Summary of definitions

  • The mean of a data set, x , denoted by x ¯ , is the average of the data values, and is calculated as:
    x ¯ = sum of values number of values
  • The median is the centre data value in a data set that has been ordered from lowest to highest
  • The mode is the data value that occurs most often in a data set.

The following presentation summarises what you have learnt in this chapter. Ignore the chapter number and any exercise numbers in the presentation.


  • Data types
  • Collecting data
  • Samples and populations
  • Grouping data TallyFrequency bins
  • Graphing data Bar and compound bar graphsHistograms and frequency polygons Pie chartsLine and broken line graphs
  • Summarising data
  • Central tendency MeanMedian ModeDispersion RangeQuartiles Inter-quartile rangePercentiles
  • Misuse of stats


  1. Calculate the mean, median, and mode of Data Set 3.
    Click here for the solution
  2. The tallest 7 trees in a park have heights in metres of 41, 60, 47, 42, 44, 42, and 47. Find the median of their heights.
    Click here for the solution
  3. The students in Bjorn's class have the following ages: 5, 9, 1, 3, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 3. Find the mode of their ages.
    Click here for the solution
  4. The masses (in kg, correct to the nearest 0,1 kg) of thirty people were measured as follows:
    45,1 57,9 67,9 57,4 50,7 61,1 63,9 67,5 69,7 71,7
    68,0 63,2 58,7 56,9 78,5 59,7 54,4 66,4 51,6 47,7
    70,9 54,8 59,1 60,3 60,1 52,6 74,9 72,1 49,5 49,8
    1. Copy the frequency table below, and complete it.
      Mass (in kg) Tally Number of people
      45 , 0 m < 50 , 0
      50 , 0 m < 55 , 0
      55 , 0 m < 60 , 0
      60 , 0 m < 65 , 0
      65 , 0 m < 70 , 0
      70 , 0 m < 75 , 0
      75 , 0 m < 80 , 0
    2. Draw a frequency polygon for this information.
    3. What can you conclude from looking at the graph?
    Click here for the solution
  5. An engineering company has designed two different types of engines for motorbikes. The two different motorbikes are tested for the time it takes (in seconds) for them to accelerate from 0 km/h to 60 km/h.
    Test 1 Test 2 Test 3 Test 4 Test 5 Test 6 Test 7 Test 8 Test 9 Test 10 Average
    Bike 1 1.55 1.00 0.92 0.80 1.49 0.71 1.06 0.68 0.87 1.09
    Bike 2 0.9 1.0 1.1 1.0 1.0 0.9 0.9 1.0 0.9 1.1
    1. What measure of central tendency should be used for this information?
    2. Calculate the average you chose in the previous question for each motorbike.
    3. Which motorbike would you choose based on this information? Take note of accuracy of the numbers from each set of tests.
    Click here for the solution
  6. The heights of 40 learners are given below.
    154 140 145 159 150 132 149 150 138 152
    141 132 169 173 139 161 163 156 157 171
    168 166 151 152 132 142 170 162 146 152
    142 150 161 138 170 131 145 146 147 160
    1. Set up a frequency table using 6 intervals.
    2. Calculate the approximate mean.
    3. Determine the mode.
    4. How many learners are taller than your approximate average in (b)?
    Click here for the solution
  7. In a traffic survey, a random sample of 50 motorists were asked the distance they drove to work daily. This information is shown in the table below.
    Distance in km 1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25 26-30 31-35 36-40 41-45
    Frequency 4 5 9 10 7 8 3 2 2
    1. Find the approximate mean.
    2. What percentage of samples drove
      1. less than 16 km?
      2. more than 30 km?
      3. between 16 km and 30 km daily?
    Click here for the solution
  8. A company wanted to evaluate the training programme in its factory. They gave the same task to trained and untrained employees and timed each one in seconds.
    Trained 121 137 131 135 130
    128 130 126 132 127
    129 120 118 125 134
    Untrained 135 142 126 148 145
    156 152 153 149 145
    144 134 139 140 142
    1. Find the medians and quartiles for both sets of data.
    2. Find the Interquartile Range for both sets of data.
    3. Comment on the results.
    Click here for the solution
  9. A small firm employs nine people. The annual salaries of the employers are:
    R600 000 R250 000 R200 000
    R120 000 R100 000 R100 000
    R100 000 R90 000 R80 000
    1. Find the mean of these salaries.
    2. Find the mode.
    3. Find the median.
    4. Of these three figures, which would you use for negotiating salary increases if you were a trade union official? Why?
    Click here for the solution
  10. The marks for a particular class test are listed here:
    67 58 91 67 58 82 71 51 60 84
    31 67 96 64 78 71 87 78 89 38
    69 62 60 73 60 87 71 49

    Complete the frequency table using the given class intervals.

    Class Tally Frequency Mid-point Freq × Midpt
    30-39 34,5
    40-49 44,5
    Sum = Sum =

    Click here for the solution

Questions & Answers

important of enocomic
Adu Reply
what is division of labour
Dennis Reply
division of labour can be defined as the separation of task to individuals in any economic system to specialize on it.
what is demand curve
Victoria Reply
demand curve is a downward sloping economic graph that shows the relationship between the price of product and the quantity of the product demanded.
What is demand
Frank Reply
It refers to the quantity of a commodity purchased in the market at a price and at a point of time.
refers to amount of commodities a consumer is willing and able to buy at particular price within a period of time
It is the ability and willingness a customer buys a product or service at a particular price, place and time while other things remaining constant or the same
In which case is opportunity cost is zero
Francis Reply
where no alternative is available
who is the father of economic
Omar Reply
Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam smith
Adam Smith
What is monopoly
Mauthoor Reply
it an economic situation where one individual controls the essential commodities or value product for maximum profit
monopoly is a market situation in which there is only one producer of a good or service which has no close substitutes
is where only one person is solely the price taker
what is Monopoly
Dauda Reply
The word Monopoly is a Latin word. it is the combination of two words-Mono means single and Poly means seller. thus Monopoly means single seller. but this is not the full meaning of Monopoly. Monopoly must produce a product which does not have close substitute in the market.
Monopoly is define as a firm in an industry with very high barriers to entry.
If close substitute is available, Monopoly will be a king without a crown.
what does it array
Cbdishakur Reply
what are the differences between monopoly and.oligopoly
Onome Reply
what are the difference between monopoly and oligopoly
The deference between Monopoly and Oligopoly: Monopoly means:A single-firm-Industry producing and selling a product having no close business and Oligopoly means:A market structure where a few sellers compete with each other and each controls a significant portion of market .
so that the price-output policy one affects the other.
what are difference between physical policy and monotory policy
what is economic
Emakpor Reply
what is economic
the word economic was derived from the Greek word oikos (a house)and mein(to manage) which in effect meant managing a household with the limited funds available 🙂.
good excample about scarsity
An Enquiry into the nature and causes of wealth Nations, this book clearly defined what economic is🙂🙂🙏🙏 thank you...
good example about scarcity: money,time, energy, human or natural resources. Scarcity of resources implies that there supply is very much limited in relation to demand.
equilibrium is a situation in which economic forces such as demand and supply are balanced and in the absence of external influences,the value of economic variables will not change
Onome Reply
marginal cost and marginal revenue is equilibrium .
what is equilibrium
Rodrice Reply
policy prescriptions for unemployment
Jeslyne Reply
Am working on it
what are the factors effecting demand sedule
Kalimu Reply
we should talk about more important topics, you can search it on Google n u will find your answer we should try to focus on how we can improve our society using economics
so good night
Why do people buy more grapes in December than in July?
because at time know money
Researchers demonstrated that the hippocampus functions in memory processing by creating lesions in the hippocampi of rats, which resulted in ________.
Mapo Reply
The formulation of new memories is sometimes called ________, and the process of bringing up old memories is called ________.
Mapo Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 10 maths [ncs]. OpenStax CNX. Aug 05, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11239/1.2
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