There are many subjects that homeschooling parents often fear teaching, and I would have to put statistics and physics high on that list! Many parents have had little background in these sometimes confusing subjects, and those who have studied them, often feel their preparation wasn't adequate to teach these topics to their children. O'Reilly Media has published a wide range of books that could help parents teach any number of subjects to their high school students. I reviewed Statistics In
A Nutshell ($34.95), by Drs. Sarah Boslaugh and Paul Andrew Watters, and Head
First Physics ($29.95), by Dr. Heather Lang.
Statistics In A Nutshell is written from a more technical perspective, for students who want to learn the basics of statistics in an understandable, no frills manner. The level is appropriate for bright high school students or college students who often are required to take at least one or two statistics courses. It would also be helpful as a reference guide for reviewing statistics concepts. Head
First Physics is written more for high school students, although the material would be appropriate for beginning college physics courses. It is written to engage the student with frequent pictures, graphics, charts, and anything that will get their brain in gear to learn physics. This book is so much fun, the readers may forget how much they are learning!
Statistics In A Nutshell covers a broad range of material, including understanding the foundation of statistics, concepts of measurement and probability theory, descriptive and inferential statistics, parametric and nonparametric statistics, and research design, etc. The material begins with the basics and moves up to a fairly advanced level, so both beginners and students with some statistical background could benefit from this book. There are exercises with answers throughout the text, so the student can check their understanding as they work through the topics. I thought the materials were very comprehensive, understandable and interesting. Frequent charts, graphs, and example problems bring the concepts to life for the student. This textbook would have been very helpful while we were studying statistics!
Head First Physics has a very different flavor, but is equally comprehensive. This is a fun book that also covers an impressive amount of material in a way that will have students coming back for more. If you like dry, grown-up looking textbooks, you will likely throw this 895-page book against the wall, because it is anything but dry! Don't let the length throw you, though; the style is somewhat akin to a teen magazine, with a very graphical interface, lots of charts, graphs, sidebars and illustrations. There's a bit more pop culture than I would prefer, but nothing more offensive than "Dude, that sucks!" We liked the frequent review, a plethora of exercises and presenting the same materials in different ways. The focus is clearly on learning and applying critical thinking skills to the subject of physics, so the student learns how to think through and solve problems, rather than just learning how to plug numbers into a formula. The authors have presented complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand, yet fun enough to make them want to study physics. Think Myth Busters meets your high school physics teacher. Not a bad combo!