30th June 2000 at 01:00
STATISTICAL AND DATA HANDLING SKILLS IN BIOLOGY. By Roland Ennos. Pearson Education pound;9.99

This book starts with the laudable aim of making biology students feel comfortable with maths and statistics. Intended for a range of readers from the sixth-form student to the working biologist, it is based on the author's lectures at Manchester University.

It is more than just another statistics book. For example, the second chapter, which deals with scientific notation and logarithms, is particularly well written and clear. Difficult statistical concepts, such as degrees of freedom, are explained very clearly.

However, the approach to statistics that isadopted is, ultimately, mechanical - more a question of helping students to choose the "right test" rather than helping them to understand, at a conceptual level, the value of statistics as a tool for evaluating the strength of the evidence in relation to a particular hypothesis or model. Such an understanding would require a better foundation in probability than is provided here.

Nonetheless, this is a valuable book as anaide-memoire, and certainly one that would be useful to have in the A-level laboratory or on a field course.

Geoff Hayward is a lecturer in science education at the University of Oxford department of educational studies

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