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Topic: Activity-Based Statistics
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Richard Scheaffer

Posts: 440
Registered: 12/6/04
Activity-Based Statistics
Posted: Feb 13, 1996 1:14 PM
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AP Stat-ers

Since numerous references have been made to the Activity-Based Statistics
project, I though it appropriate to share some information with you.
This work is a set of approximately 50 activities that can be used to
illustrate basic statistical concepts. Most are not computer dependent
and can be used in a variety of settings, in class or out, small or large
groups. A longer overview follows, if you care to read more.

Springer-Verlag is to publish the work later this spring. Details on
publication can be obtained from:

Liesl Gibson
Springer-Verlag New York
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010-7856



Their fast-paced world of action movies, rapid-fire TV commercials
and video games does not prepare today's students to sit and absorb a
lecture, especially on a supposedly dull subject like statistics. To capture
the interest of these students, teaching must move away
from lecture-and-listen to innovative activities that engage students in the
learning process. The goal of the Activity-Based Statistics Project (ABSP)
is to develop a set of such activities that cover the statistical concepts that
are essential to any introductory course. These activities can be used in a
variety of class settings to allow students to "discover" concepts of
statistics by working through a set of "laboratory" exercises. Whether the
"laboratory" is the classroom, the student's usual place of study, or a more
formal statistics laboratory, the traditional lectures in introductory
should be supplemented or supplanted by a program that requires the
active participation of the students, working individually or in groups.
Statistics, then, should be taught more as an experimental science and less
as traditional mathematics.
The activities are organized around the major topics covered in most
introductory courses. The overarching topic is Exploring Data. Statistical
ideas begin with data, but data should be collected for a purpose. Relating
data collection and analysis to the solving of a real problem, much as is
done in statistical process improvement, allows exploratory techniques to
be used extensively, but with a purpose in mind.
Random Behavior is fundamental to the decision-making process of
statistics, but is a difficult topic for students to grasp. Thus, a number of
activities concentrate on developing an understanding of randomness,
without going into the mathematical formalities of classical probability
distributions. Simulation is key to this process. Related material on
Sampling Distributions is included, to be introduced at the discretion of the
instructor. Since the amount of required probability is highly variable from
course to course, the activities throughout the ABSP are designed to be
completed with a minimum of probability.
Sampling, such as in the ubiquitous opinion poll, is the most common
applications of planned data collection in the "real" world and in the
classroom. This topic allows the early introduction of the idea of random
sampling and its implications for statistical inference. Thus, it serves as
an excellent bridge between probability and inference The difficulty and
importance of collecting data that fairly represents a population are
Estimation and Hypothesis Testing frame the basic approach to
inference in most courses, and numerous activities deal with the conceptual
understanding of the reasoning process used here. Again, simulation plays
a key role as concepts of sampling error, confidence interval, and p-value
are introduced without appeal to formulas.
Experiments are the second major technique for planned data
collection. The point that experiments are designed to compare
"treatments" rather than to estimate population parameters is emphasized
by appealing to activities that focus on optimization of factors.
Modeling the relationship between two variables, especially through
the use of least squares regression, is widely used throughout statistics and
should be part of an introductory course. Here, technology is required in
order to use time efficiently. Correlation, a topic much confused by
students, is singled out for special study.
There are far more activities than can be used efficiently in one
course. It is hoped that instructors will choose one or two activities from
each of the topics so that students are exposed to a range of concepts
through hands-on learning.
Each activity has student pages and notes for the instructor. This
allows the flexibility to use the activities as class demonstration, group
work in class, or take-home assignments. In whatever setting they may be
used, the activities should actively engage the students so that they become
true participants in the teaching-learning process.

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