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Topic: addendum on AP stats textbooks: M&M
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Posts: 144
Registered: 12/6/04
addendum on AP stats textbooks: M&M
Posted: Feb 29, 1996 9:48 AM
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I think Bob Hayden's recent posts about statistics textbooks are very
helpful, and I want to add a brief note of my own. I used M&M a year ago
last fall. (Since that time, I have done the corresponding course only
once, and that time opted to use Moore's lower-level but more recent
book, which Bob referred to as BPS.)

1.5 years later, two things about M&M stand out in my mind:

(1) The data sets were chosen thoughtfully and with great care. There's a
statistical "lesson" associated with almost all of them. And, as a
bonus, many of them lead to extra-statistical insights. Look for

at p.142/32, where the ability to predict urban pollution from a nearby
rural location makes students wonder if monitoring stations are needed at
both sites;

at p.140/28, where the ability to predict blood flow through the lining
of the stomach makes the virtues of a non-invasive procedure palpable;

or at p.116/15, where one examines the relationship between pecking order
in chickens and body weight. (I had my students do this one in class, in
groups, and turn their work in. One group proudly summarized their
observations this way: "Fat chickens don't cut it!")

This is sharp contrast to the problem/data sets I find in other books I
use, or have used. For example, I'm doing an elementary biostatistics
course right now. The book we're using finally, in its 6th edition, got
around to supplying attributions and other contextual information to many
of their problems. But it often does not help. Consider this one:

"Seventeen patients admitted to the Aberdeen Teaching Hospitals in
Scotland between 1980 and mid-1988 were diagnosed as having pyogenic
liver abscess. Nine of the patients died. In an article in the
journal _Age and Aging_, Sridharan et al. (A-7) state that 'The high
fatality of pyogenic liver abscess seems to be at least in part due
to a lack of clinical suspicion.' The following are the ages of the
subjects in the study: ..."

There follows a list of 17 ages, and the student was to compute mean,
median, mode, range, variance, st dev, and coefficient of variation. The
data were NOT separated into the ages of those who died and those who did
not, which would have been natural enough. So what was the point of
supplying context here, if students could do nothing with it? This is
typical of the book (and others like it): the APPEARANCE of real data,
contextual information, attribution--in a vacuous problem.

(2) M&M is loaded with sound, practical advice--much of it easy-to-use
"rules of thumb"--that you can find almost nowhere else (in elementary
textbooks, that is):

"... the F test and other procedures for standard deviations are
extremely sensitive to nonnormal distributions. ... It is difficult
... to tell whether a significant F-value is evidence of unequal
population spreads or simply evidence that the populations are not

... we do not recommend use of inference about population standard
deviations in basic statistical practice."

or see p.723 where, in connection with ANOVA, we find "If the ratio of
the largest sample standard deviation to the smallest sample standard
deviation is less than 2, we can use methods based on the assumption of
equal standard deviations and our results will be approximately correct."

So, in my opinion, there you have it: outstanding data sets and
problems; sound, easy-to-use practical advice available nowhere else--
except perhaps in Moore' BPS. (I used BPS this past fall, by the way,
and liked it. But I didn't think it had the substance of M&M.) All I
know is that the course I did 1.5 years ago with M&M was more fun than
any course I can remember since leaving high school teaching nearly 30
years ago. And it wasn't because I suddenly became clever; it was mostly
because I had an outstanding guide on whom I could rely. It didn't
matter that the reading level was high (I could help interpret, when
needed), or that the book was not visually trendy (my students never were
conscious of that, as far as I could tell). I'm going back to it next

Bruce King
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Western Connecticut State University
181 White Street
Danbury, CT 06810

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