Submitted by Matt on

Benjamin Disreali once said that there were three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies and statistics.  

Having been in a number of jobs that need me to use mathematics on a daily basis, when presented with statistics which allegedly prove a point, I'm very quick to ask for the raw data to understand how the statistics were calculated and to check that they're right.  I was recently asked to take a look at some road speed statistics and I was given the following data:


What we have here is a table showing the Mon-Sun average speeds for the 02:00 to 03:00 time block.  What the spreadsheet author has done is to sum the average speeds to the left and divide by 7 or 5 to get an average.  However this leads to inaccuracies: what we're getting is an average of an average here rather than the true picture.  The Monday to Friday sample sizes vary from 0-8 cars and the 8 car hour is getting the same weighting as an hour with just 1 car passing through.

Naturally, I went back to the source of the data and recalcuated using the correct sample size, and this is what I found: