The Statistics Survival Guide (with Excel): Complete Protection from Statistics in the Wild
The Statistics Survival Guide (with Excel): Complete Protection from Statistics in the Wild

The Statistics Survival Guide (with Excel): Complete Protection from Statistics in the Wild

Lead Author(s): Wendi L. Benson, PhD

Student Price: Contact us to learn more

The Statistics Survival Guide textbook teaches you how to collect, analyze, interpret, and present data with Microsoft Excel using statistical analyses commonly found in cross-sectional behavioral, social, organizational, and medical research (i.e., z-scores, t-tests for a single sample, t-paired, t-independent, one-way ANOVA, correlation, regression, and multiple regression). Chapters include detailed explanations, real-world examples, and knowledge check questions with real-time feedback. Most chapters also include Excel video tutorials (with datasets provided) that walk you through every step of the analysis, demonstrate how to present findings in APA style, and break down results in simple terms.

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Image Credit: Poppy Helt at
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Welcome Letter and Guide for Instructors

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"So, you are thinking about adopting the Statistics Survival Guide textbook?"

Thank you for considering the Statistics Survival Guide textbook (and potentially my course design) for your Introductory Statistics course!

This textbook is designed to help all students feel like they will survive taking statistics and be able to thrive in a world filled with numbers and disinformation. This textbook and course design are the culmination of 15 years of research and teaching underprepared, reluctant, and anxious students across different majors to understand and appreciate statistics. This textbook is also the result of necessity. It was created during the fall 2020 semester, in response to the shift to online teaching during the COVID-19 Pandemic. When I was forced into online teaching with no access to childcare and young children to keep alive and homeschool, I needed a resource that would teach students effectively in an online format without the need for lectures and live meetings. I developed this textbook during naptimes and my partner’s days off, a chapter ahead of my 60+ Statistics students. While the experience was grueling, the feedback and insights they provided throughout the semester improved the quality of this textbook (see acknowledgements in the About the Textbook and Author section for students). Their feedback also earned them Stat*Points to unlock rewards (see my gamified Stat*Points system in the Instructor Resources folder). Near the the end of the semester (week 11/16), my students provided quantitative and qualitative anonymous feedback about this textbook and granted me permission to share testimonials. I sprinkled some of their verbatim comments below, where relevant.

The Statistics Survival Guide textbook presents concepts in an understandable and relatable way that makes statistics seem approachable and relevant, while also preparing students to be Researchers. It teaches students how to collect, analyze, and interpret data with Excel using the most common analyses found in behavioral, social, organizational, and medical research (i.e., z-scores, t-tests for a single sample, t-paired, t-independent, one-way ANOVA, correlation, regression, and multiple regression). Students also learn how to explain results from statistical analyses using tables, figures, APA-style conclusions, and simple explanations of results. Each chapter also teaches students how to be wiser consumers of research by understanding the assumptions, limitations, and misuses of research and statistical analyses. It teaches students how to defend themselves against lies, damned lies, and statistics (without the profanity).

This textbook and course design are also intended to make your life easier through less grading, built-in feedback, and do-it-yourself labs with datasets and detailed step-by-step Excel tutorials embedded in each chapter.

The Statistics Survival Guide textbook is perfect for online classes because students get real-time feedback and detailed instruction within each chapter. Then they can learn how to run analyses in Excel right there on their computer, next to my YouTube video linked in the chapter (and/or my slide-based tutorial with screenshots and written instructions). The textbook and course design are also great for in-person or hybrid classes because class time can be spent on discussions and activities, instead of learning the concepts and lab skills behind statistics.

See a detailed (and linked) explanation below of what this textbook and course design has to offer Instructors and their students. In addition to what is included, you are welcome to edit, add, or delete any of the chapter contents or questions to meet your specific needs. 

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Written Chapter Contents and Knowledge Check Questions

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For Students: The written explanations, examples, and knowledge check questions sprinkled throughout each chapter help students learn the essentials of statistical concepts, while encouraging critical thinking and offering a deeper dive into relevant topics with links to external resources (see Nerdy Notes). Knowledge Check questions are NOT focused on math, they are focused on applying concepts. The primary mission of this textbook is to help students build marketable and useful skills for the real-world. Researchers rarely bust out a calculator to analyze their data. As such, formulas and math are only provided as a means of explaining the concepts and helping students interpret values.

The course design provided is not geared toward an exam-based model of learning. This textbook teaches students the practical application of statistics and builds their resume or CV by teaching them highly marketable Excel skills.

For Instructors: Each chapter includes 5 – 17 applied, auto-graded, multiple choice questions with hints and detailed explanations. You can remove, edit, or add (if you want to test their math-skills) questions to your heart’s content; just like you can edit everything else. I recommend making the textbook questions worth a set number of points for all chapters to prevent confusion and unfairly weighted chapters.

I highly recommend allowing students 2 attempts for full-credit on Knowledge Check questions (with the hint activated). Giving students the opportunity to learn from mistakes and feedback encourages a stronger growth mindset in students (see the Preface). The Skill Check Assignments (see the Instructor Resources folder) and are where students are challenged to apply the most critical concepts from the chapter without hints or multiple attempts (unless revise and resubmissions are earned through Stat*Points; see the Instructor Resource folder).

Student Testimonials

“I believe the way this book is written and the questions that are incorporated within the textbook help my understanding of the concept taught. I have struggled with previous statistics classes, but this textbook and methods of learning has greatly improved my understanding.”
  • First-Generation College Student, who took Algebra over 3 years before taking Statistics, was highly worried about doing well in Statistics at the beginning of the semester, and was not worried at the end
“I like that there are questions as you go through the chapter, as opposed to having all of the questions at the end. I love the visual learning aids. I also like that you get more than one chance and you can see the right answer after if you didn't already choose it.”
  • Student who took Algebra recently, was extremely worried about doing well in Statistics at the beginning of the semester, and was moderately worried at the end

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Excel Practice Assignments and Tutorials

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For Students: Even if students have never opened an Excel workbook, they will be able to follow the tutorials in this textbook and eventually master the basics of hypothesis testing with statistical analyses in Excel. All chapters (except 1, 2, and 7) include a dataset and link to a YouTube video tutorial that walks students through every click in Excel to run the analysis featured in the chapter. Hypothesis testing chapters (8 – 14) also include a video tutorial explaining APA-style conclusions and a slide-based Excel tutorial with screen shots and written step-by-step instructions. These tutorials allow students to learn at their own pace and gives them a useful resource for future data analysis needs.

For Instructors: You no longer have to teach students how to run analyses in a software program in person, while trying to accommodate different paces and levels of understanding for an entire class all at once. This textbook gives students the conceptual understanding and basic skills that you can build on through providing tailored feedback on challenging applied assignments (see the Skill Check assignments in the Instructor Resources folder) and/or discussing how statistics applies to students’ everyday lives (see Statistics in the Wild discussion assignment in the Instructor Resources folder).

Student Testimonials

“ The textbook explains each concept beautifully which is saying a lot considering I have never taken any type of statistics course in my life. Furthermore this textbook helped me in my research assistant position which has been challenging due to my lack of knowledge in stats, but thanks to the set up of the textbook I am able to effectively learn concepts and apply them.”
  • First-Generation College Student who took Algebra over 6 years ago, was moderately worried about doing well in Statistics at the beginning of the semester, and was not worried at the end
"The textbook was very easy to navigate by chapters from beginning to end. The videos were the most helpful, visual demonstrations were excellent tools for assignments.”
  • First-Generation College Student who took Algebra recently, was extremely worried about doing well in Statistics at the beginning of the semester, and was moderately worried at the end

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Other **Instructor Resources**

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Assignment instructions and rubrics that can be used in your course LMS or as the basis of a discussion or file submission question in Top Hat.

Example Syllabus

See an example of how the course structure is explained and how to integrate the textbook and course structure into a 16-week semester schedule.

Excel Practice Assignment Prompts and Keys

Use prepared Excel Practice Assignment prompts to make sure students know what to submit based on the Excel tutorial(s) embedded in the chapter. Then use the prepared keys to grade them.

Skill Check Assignment Prompts and Rubrics

Work with your students to create a survey (in the Chapter 3 Skill Check) and collect data (through Qualtrics, Google Forms, Survey Monkey, etc.) to use for Skill Check Assignments throughout the semester. Just be sure the survey includes nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio, and pre/post variables. Skill Check assignments requires students to:

  • Select variables appropriate for the analysis covered in the chapter
  • Prepare and analyze the data based on what they learned in the Excel Practice Assignment
  • Explain results in APA-style and/or simple language that most adults could understand

Statistics in the Wild Discussion Assignment Instructions

Throughout the semester, have students share and critique examples of statistics they have encountered in their everyday lives. This assignment gives students the opportunity to sharpen their critical thinking skills and discuss statistics with their peers and Instructor, all while applying course concepts to the real world. Feel free to weigh in periodically, or let the students run “wild”. Just be sure to give Stat*Points (see below) to students who provide exceptional contributions to this discussion (and any Question-and-Answer Q&A Discussion Boards you have in the class).

Question & Answer and Attention to Detail Discussion Prompts

There are also prompts for the various Question and Answer Discussion boards students actively engage in to help each other and get help from you that benefits the entire class (especially when they are incentivized with Stat*Points, see below). 

Stat*Point System to Gamify Your Class and Help Students Learn from Mistakes

Use Stat*Points to reward students for active engagement in your class and for exceptional contributions to the Statistics in the Wild discussion. You can also use Stat*Points and an Attention to Detail discussion board to help students catch your typos or other issues in your course (have fun and slip some silly typos in the syllabus to see if they are paying attention). You might be surprised what mistakes they find, and will be surprised by their response to you owning up to mistakes and accepting their feedback.

Allow students to cash in Stat*Points to for desirable rewards like extensions, opportunities to revise/resubmit, a trophy, or snacks on exam days in class. It motivates students to participate, while giving you the flexibility to accommodate students fairly (“You can submit that late of you have enough Stat*Points.”).

See the Instructor Resources folder for the Stat*Point Reward system I used in my online class as well as an example leaderboard and the file for a 3-D printed Stat*Point Pro Trophy designed by Poppy Helt (the textbook cover designer). 

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Thanks for taking the time to get to know The Statistics Survival Guide textbook. I hope you adopt it and enjoy using it as a resource to propel your students toward success and having an appreciation of statistical reasoning. 

I will continually edit and add to this textbook and I love hearing from fellow Stats Instructors, so PLEASE email me with any feedback or suggestions for future editions at

Dr. Wendi L. Benson