First, a question regarding homework. Is it better to assign small amounts of daily homework or more significant problem sets every week or so? Desiring to be a "non-typical" math class I'd like to avoid the drudgery of daily homework. In addition, the book I am using (M+M) gives problems only after a large amount (>1 or 2 days) of material. Is it possible to get by without daily HW? Please let me know.
Teaching in college, I find that students have no work planning skills. No matter how often you collect stuff, they try to do it right before it is due. This just does not work for a lot of my projects. If they go into the computer lab without understanding the underlying statistics, they have little hope of getting the computer to do anything worthwhile for them. So, what do you do about this? The easy road is to never assign anything that can not be successfully completed using the study skills they already have. A harder task is to try to get them to develop better study skills. As someone who came from industry to academia, I have to say that there are not a lot of real world problems that can be solved the night before they are due. However, I have not been very successful at getting my students to change their ways.
To get back to your question -- I think students need a mix of simple, routine problems done on a daily basis, along with larger tasks that take several days to complete AND ARE DONE OVER THE COURSE OF SEVERAL DAYS. Otherwise, the only difference between four problems a day and twenty problems a week is that they can't finish twently in one night.
The intro. stats. book by Siegel and Morgan has lots of embedded small exercises as you go along and might be a resource for anyone who wants such exercises.
There's always the classic of giving them a questionnaire and collecting data about them. A little slower but potentially more interesting is to tell them a little about data and data gathering and then have them write and submit questions that you collate into a questionnaire to be distributed at the next class meeting. In either case, it's impressive if you can summarize the results right before their eyes immediately upon collecting the questionnaires.
Another technique I learned from Laurie Snell is to bring in copies of a recent news article involving statistical issues. He might first give you what USA Today has to say about a new medical breakthrough, then the NY Times, then the Journal of the A.M.A. The next day he might bring in a letter to the editor of the NY Times from a doctor raising questions about the methodology of the study. You often cannot settle the substantive issues with this approach, but you sure can convince the students that statistics deals with substantive issues!
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