University of South Florida textbook, 'The Joy of Statistics,' riddled with errors

TAMPA, Fla. -- Anyone with a kid in college knows the cost of higher education is skyrocketing. Textbooks alone can cost students hundreds of dollars every semester.

But an investigation has uncovered some textbooks sold at USF are full of errors.

The name of the textbook is "The Joy of Statistics," and USF junior Jason Richardson says it cost him about $180.

"It's riddled with errors," says Richardson.  "As I was reading through it, I noticed a lot of things that didn't make a lot of sense."

Including the English itself.  For example, the top of page 123.

"The sentence reads 'A random sample of 50 pieces of plastic are being used 6mm these pieces of nylon rope are taken and the breaking strength (KN) is measured," says Richardson.

"What does that mean?" We asked.  "I have no idea," the USF junior told us.

Bad English is one thing.  Bad math in a statistics textbook is another.

"We're told CI equals CI divided by N, which wouldn't make sense because you can't divide CI by something to get CI.  That's like saying two divided by two equals four, which doesn't makes sense," Richardson said after reading from another page.

Richardson found page after page of errors.

"We have a series of numbers, then below it's worked out with an entirely different set of numbers," says Richardson.

"We're told to look at a sequence of rectangles shown to the left but on the left the page is blank," referring to another example.

Richardson alerted his professor, who happens to be one of the authors of the book.  He says they blamed the publisher.

"Something that is urged of us a lot in our writing at this school is proofreading and this certainly wasn't proofread by the publisher," Richardson told us.

Richardson contacted the publisher, Kendall Hunt, and asked for a refund.  Instead, he got an email from the Senior Managing Editor who said, in part, "I don't think it's fair that you unload 3 years of anger on my editor." Our main philosophy is built around trying to give students a better value and a less expensive book."

In a phone interview, Chad Chandlee, the President of Kendall Hunt told us the book was "proofed" three times, but acknowledges there were still a lot of mistakes.

"It's human error.  It's an unfortunate part of publishing, and it sounds like in this case from what I'm being told there were a significant amount of errors," Chandlee said.

The reality is textbooks errors are fairly common. According to a study by the Fordham Foundation, textbooks are often "hurriedly put together."

Christine Miller and her sister, Nicole, both used a precalculus textbook at USF.  One of the authors, also a USF faculty member, acknowledged to us there were some errors in it.

The Millers said it had an impact on their grades.  "It's frustrating to the point you don't trust the textbook anymore," said Miller.

As for the "Joy of Statistics, the President of Kendall Hunt says despite all the problems, it's still a good book.

"My question would be, did the book advance their ability to learn the subject matter?  I think our answer to it is it did," says Chandlee

Jason Richardson clearly doesn't agree.

"This is definitely hindering a student's success and I definitely think something should have been done about it sooner," Richardson says.

Kendall Hunt says the errors in the textbook are being corrected. Most publishers have what's called errata sheets -- corrections to mistakes that have been identified.

Usually those corrections can be found on the publisher's website.

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