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The Manga Guide to Statistics Makes Learning Fun! (Author brick'd for cliche use.)

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Manga readers everywhere are now beginning to understand the true power of manga as a global economic force. Just about everything these days is becoming manga-ized…Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel comics, you name it. So it’s inevitable that someone would try to put the power of manga to some kind of constructive use.

In this case, this someone would be author Shin Takahashi, who has penned The Manga Guide to Statistics in an effort to somehow use the power of manga to cure cancer. Well, maybe not (though I wouldn’t be surprised if manga could cure cancer), but at least make the mathematical science of statistics palpable to the everystudent. Does it succeed in its task? Find out after the jump.

The Manga Guide to Statistics
by Shin Takahashi and Trend-pro Co., Ltd.
Published by No Starch Press
Originally released in November 2008

The way Shin Takahashi’s guide is organized is in chapters consisting first of the story where a plot point is introduced that serves as an excuse to talk about a statistical concept (like two characters comparing scores on a test). The statistical concept is then explained through the next few panels using vivid graphics that demonstrate the various mathematical concepts and equations behind the statistical function in question. This process continues a few more times until the end of the chapter where everything comes together in textbook-style exercises that can be done by the reader (if they wish). Thus, the guide must be approached in two ways – as a manga story to be followed, and as a method of learning statistics for the reader.

Along the first line of judgment, the Manga Guide to Statistics presents a story that is pretty stereotypical shoujo. The story is of a high school girl, Rui, who meets a co-worker of her father’s, Mr. Igarashi, who just happens to be the hottest man alive (at least for Rui). Thus, this co-worker becomes the instant object of affection for Rui, and Mr. Igarashi then explains what he does for a living – marketing, which is a field that is ruled by statistics. Rui, naturally, then becomes obsessed with statistics, and requests a tutor of statistics from her father in an effort to become closer to Mr. Igarashi. However, in a typical shoujo twist, Rui’s father hires a statistics tutor that is anything but appealing to Rui – a homely otaku nerd. The requisite hilarity, as well as the statistics learning, then ensues.

So in regards to its storyline, the Manga Guide to Statistics isn’t exactly going to win any awards for original storytelling. However, as a plot device for compelling readers to learn the statistics contained within, it does its job. The story manages to be just interesting enough to warrant turning its pages to see how Rui confronts the next statistical problem and follow along as she learns. The art in the Guide is also pretty standard for its genre, but again, it does its job in keeping the reader interested, being put to clever use to illustrate various statistical graphs and concepts.

Where the Manga Guide to Statistics really shines, though, is in its presentation of its intended learning material. As cliché as the story and art may be, when used to illustrate the ways statistics come into our everyday lives and how to use statistics, they really do accomplish the task of making statistics easier to understand. With such examples as measuring reader interest in a particular manga series Rui likes, to analyzing how boys and girls prefer to be asked out on a date, to comparing ramen shop prices, the Guide somehow manages to make the otherwise dull topic of statistics appealing. Such a feat is, after all, the Guide’s point, cliché story and art aside. The way the math is presented makes it easy to understand, as well, having plenty of examples and graphs to back it up.

So overall, don’t buy the Manga Guide to Statistics if you’re just looking for another manga read to devour, as you’ll be disappointed in that regard. But if you’re truly interested in learning statistics (or you desperately need statistics to be in a digestible format for you so you don’t fall behind in your classes), Shin Takahashi’s The Manga Guide to Statistics will serve your purposes well.

You can find this guide, as well as - shock of shocks, horror of horrors - other manga guides to math and science topics, at the link to No Starch Press listed above.

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