by Shin Takahashi
published by No Starch Press; $19.95 US
The book promises to combine education with entertainment, teaching “statistics with heart-pounding excitement!” That seems a bit much for a math comic book, but it refers to the storyline driving the lessons.
When Rui first meets her father’s co-worker, Mr. Igarashi, who uses statistics in market research, she develops an instant crush. She asks her dad for a statistics tutor in order to get closer to him. Instead, she winds up with Mr. Yamamoto, a younger geek, to learn more about mathematical analysis of samples from a population.
Each chapter is predominantly comics, with text sections providing more depth, plus an exercise and answer. The art is clear and readable, with mostly static head and figure shots. It’s standard shojo style, with plenty of patterned backgrounds. The characters are one-dimensional: Rui is an over-emotional, impractical, lovesick teen. The tutor is something of a fanboy. The dialogue is stodgy, as is to be expected with an explicitly didactic project, and often jargon-heavy.
The text is partially Americanized, using “Mr. So-and-So” instead of “So-and-So-San”. I found more amusing when the tutor sees what are clearly manga volumes on Rui’s shelves, and the two talk about how she reads “comics”. However, this isn’t consistent: there are numerous references to the way Japan does things, like “home prefecture” instead of “state” or the “English proficiency step test”. The real-life examples cover things like ramen shops and bowling scores.
We’re given formulas for calculation, but the purpose isn’t always explained. Instead, their use supports rote memorization. (In that way, it seems to me culturally Japanese.) As a result, this book seems more like a supporting text than a primary one. If you know when you need, for example, a histogram, then this book will help you remember how to make one. It can’t take the place of a teacher, though, because too much is thrown at the reader without room to practice or understand the context.
Although the comics are nothing to write home about, the gimmick does draw attention to the material from those who’d otherwise ignore it. See sample pages at the publisher’s website. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.) Here’s another review that has more concerns about the gender roles.