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Introducing statistics

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Today, more than ever, statistics is part of our lives. From this key introductory module you will learn how to use basic statistical tools and quantitative methods that are useful in business, government, industry, medicine, the economy, and most academic subjects. Topics covered include: summarising data; examining relationships; randomness and sampling distributions; probability; testing hypotheses; and estimation. Using data from a range of applications, you’ll learn practical statistical techniques and fundamental principles, as well as using software and a calculator to analyse data. The skills introduced will be ideal if you plan to study more mathematics modules or if you encounter data in another subject or your daily life.

What you will study

This key introductory statistics module is designed for people who have not studied statistics before. It focuses on the application of statistics, adopting the attitude that statistics is about solving problems. The module is data driven. We collect relevant data and we analyse them to answer the problems. The methods that are covered are not specific to one field of application alone, but apply to all areas in which statistics is used.

The text contains many exercises that you should work through to help you learn and to monitor your own progress. Most exercises involve calculations that you will do by hand (or by calculator), but some you will do by computer, using the software package Minitab, which you will be taught to use and which is supplied with the module. You will be encouraged to develop skills in interpreting and communicating your results and this will be assessed in assignment questions.

Providing you have the appropriate background knowledge (see Entry) you should expect to study for about nine hours a week. Many of the topics covered in the module depend on your understanding of topics in earlier units. So, if you have not adequately understood earlier material, you may find later material difficult and time consuming.

You will learn

Successful study of this module should begin to develop your statistical skills and enable you to analyse common forms of data so as to address practical problems.

You will learn about:

  • key ideas in statistics
  • statistical vocabulary and notation introduced in the module
  • selection and use of statistical techniques for exploring data
  • interpretation of results in the context of real life questions
  • communication of results
  • use of statistical software
  • use of relevant ICT tools for learning.

The module contains many data from real world situations based around three themes: economics, education and health.

Professional recognition

This module may help you to gain membership of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). For further information, see the IMA website.

This module may also help you to apply for the professional award of Graduate Statistician conferred by The Royal Statistical Society (RSS).

Entry requirements

You need no pre-requisites to study Introducing statistics. However, we recommend that you’re confident with the following mathematical topics:

  • arithmetic of numbers, including negative numbers and fractions
  • powers of numbers, including square roots
  • using a scientific calculator for the above topics, and for working with brackets
  • using simple formulas
  • drawing and interpreting simple charts and graphs

Talk to an advisor if you’re not sure if you’re ready.

Preparatory work

We provide free learning resources on our Maths Help website; you can learn new skills or refresh your existing knowledge. We recommend working through modules 1–6 and module 8.

What's included

Books, DVD, the software package Minitab 17, and a dedicated website containing online activities and resources.

You will need

A scientific calculator – we recommend any one that has basic statistical functions, such as mean and standard deviation, and that you know how to use it before the module starts. You will need a few household items to carry out a small experiment for one of the units of study.

You will require access to the internet at least once a week to download resources and assignments, keep up to date with news and to access the interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs).

You will also need access to a computer to run the Minitab software at least once in most of the study units and to answer assignment questions. The module is designed so that use of Minitab can be deferred to the end of each unit. A desktop or laptop computer with Widows 7 or higher. Please note that an Apple Mac is not a suitable device for this module, as the Minitab software provided will not run properly on it.

We also recommend that you have a headset with a microphone and earphones so that you can participate fully in online tutorials.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided from a hardware device e.g. DVD drive or USB stick or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7 or higher.

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and who you can ask for advice and guidance. If you are new to the OU, you will find that your tutor is particularly concerned to help with your study methods. We will also be able to offer local group tutorials or day schools that you are strongly encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. Tutors will also offer online group tutorials in addition to face-to-face tutorials.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice. You must submit parts of the end-of-module assessment (EMA) online.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying M140 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Introducing statistics (M140) starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018 and February 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2021.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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