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More probability density is found as one gets closer to the expected (mean) value in a normal distribution. Statistics used in standardized testing assessment are shown. The scales include standard deviations, cumulative percentages, Z-scores, and T-scores.

Statistics is a branch of mathematics dealing with data collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation. In applying statistics to, for example, a scientific, industrial, or social problem, it is conventional to begin with a statistical population or a statistical model process to be studied. Populations can be diverse topics such as "all people living in a country" or "every atom composing a crystal". Statistics deals with all aspects of data including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments. See glossary of probability and statistics.

When census data cannot be collected, statisticians collect data by developing specific experiment designs and survey samples. Representative sampling assures that inferences and conclusions can reasonably extend from the sample to the population as a whole. An experimental study involves taking measurements of the system under study, manipulating the system, and then taking additional measurements using the same procedure to determine if the manipulation has modified the values of the measurements. In contrast, an observational study does not involve experimental manipulation.

Two main statistical methods are used in data analysis: descriptive statistics, which summarize data from a sample using indexes such as the mean or standard deviation, and inferential statistics, which draw conclusions from data that are subject to random variation (e.g., observational errors, sampling variation). Descriptive statistics are most often concerned with two sets of properties of a distribution (sample or population): central tendency (or location) seeks to characterize the distribution's central or typical value, while dispersion (or variability) characterizes the extent to which members of the distribution depart from its center and each other. Inferences on mathematical statistics are made under the framework of probability theory, which deals with the analysis of random phenomena.

A standard statistical procedure involves the test of the relationship between two statistical data sets, or a data set and synthetic data drawn from an idealized model. A hypothesis is proposed for the statistical relationship between the two data sets, and this is compared as an alternative to an idealized null hypothesis of no relationship between two data sets. Rejecting or disproving the null hypothesis is done using statistical tests that quantify the sense in which the null can be proven false, given the data that are used in the test. Working from a null hypothesis, two basic forms of error are recognized: Type I errors (null hypothesis is falsely rejected giving a "false positive") and Type II errors (null hypothesis fails to be rejected and an actual difference between populations is missed giving a "false negative"). Multiple problems have come to be associated with this framework: ranging from obtaining a sufficient sample size to specifying an adequate null hypothesis.

Measurement processes that generate statistical data are also subject to error. Many of these errors are classified as random (noise) or systematic (bias), but other types of errors (e.g., blunder, such as when an analyst reports incorrect units) can also be important. The presence of missing data or censoring may result in biased estimates and specific techniques have been developed to address these problems.

Statistics can be said to have begun in ancient civilization, going back at least to the 5th century BC, but it was not until the 18th century that it started to draw more heavily from calculus and probability theory. In more recent years statistics has relied more on statistical software to produce tests such as descriptive analysis.

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A histogram of heights of cherry trees
Students are expected to interpret graphs, such as this histogram

Advanced Placement Statistics ("AP Statistics") is a college-level high school statistics course offered in the United States through the College Board's Advanced Placement program. This course is equivalent to a one semester, non-calculus-based introductory college statistics course and is normally offered to juniors and seniors in high school. One of the College Board's more recent additions, the AP Statistics exam was first administered in May of 1996 to supplement the AP program's math offerings, which had previously consisted of only AP Calculus AB and BC. Students may receive college credit or upper-level college course placement upon the successful completion of a three-hour exam ordinarily administered in May. The exam consists of a multiple choice section and a free response section that are both 90 minutes long. Each section is weighted equally in determining the students' composite scores.

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Pie chart
A pie chart from Playfair's 1801 "Statistical Breviary"

William Playfair (22 September 1759 - 11 February 1823) was a Scottish engineer and political economist, the founder of graphical methods of statistics. He invented four types of diagrams: in 1786 the line graph and bar chart of economic data, and in 1801 the pie chart and circle graph, used to show part-whole relations. Playfair had a variety of careers: he was in turn a millwright, engineer, draftsman, accountant, inventor, silversmith, merchant, investment broker, economist, statistician, pamphleteer, translator, publicist, land speculator, convict, banker, ardent royalist, editor, blackmailer and journalist. He has been variously described as an "engineer, political economist and scoundrel" and an "ingenious mechanic and miscellaneous writer."

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