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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

How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
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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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