The Sunnier Side of Statistics

SBCC Teacher's Popular Books Frame Difficult Math Concepts in Funny, Relatable Ways

Santa Barbara City College instructor Sanderson Smith’s new book, The Statistical Odyssey of Herkimer and the Stat Pack, is listed as one of the top five publications of 2009 by, a Web site devoted to the teaching and study of statistical literacy. Smith, who resides in Carpinteria, said he self-published the book in March in order to teach statistics in an entertaining and easy-to-read format. In addition to its humorous and approachable presentation, said Smith, the book contains practical and relevant statistic concepts that have caused it to gain significant recognition.

The Statistical Odyssey of Herkimer and the Stat Pack is centered around imaginary cartoon characters including a group of students called the Stat Pack and their leader, Herkimer. Uniquely, the book goes through 108 vignettes where the characters highlight financial and statistical concepts through conversation.

Prior to Smith’s retirement in 2004 and part-time employment with SBCC, he worked at Cate School for 40 years, the birthplace of Herkimer and the Stat Pack.

For 30 years, the notorious fantasy character Herkimer had entered the lives of countless youths at Cate School and become an integral part in learning statistics in a humorous way, said Smith. Due to the success of the teaching method, Smith published The Statistical Odyssey of Herkimer and the Stat Pack, making Herkimer available to the public in order to offer a practical and entertaining way to educate others about mathematics and statistics.

Smith explains that there are a lot of statistic and financial books out there which can be frightening for unfamiliar users, but the easy-to-read and comfortable style of this book is what makes it unique when discussing issues that are prevalent in society today. Smith’s other publication, Herkimer and the Stat Pack Venture Into Money Mathematics, focuses more on financial concepts and practices.

Smith emphasizes the importance of statistics and finance in today’s economy and the need for the whole of society to understand the concepts.

“It is why we are in a crisis now,” says Smith, “ because people don’t know enough about statistics and finance.”

Smith explains that issues such as foreclosure and credit card debt are due to people not understanding what they are getting themselves into. He states that the study of these topics should concentrate on coming to reasonable rather than correct solutions. When one understands what is reasonable for them, Smith explained, it becomes extremely practical to their financial life.

Herkimer and the Stat Pack Venture Into Money Mathematics, Smith said, addresses very relevant and serious issues such as credit cards, mortgages, bonds, Ponzi schemes, and other often misunderstood financial concepts.


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