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Topic: Computers and AP -Forwarded
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Timothy Brown

Posts: 42
Registered: 12/6/04
Computers and AP -Forwarded
Posted: Sep 12, 1996 11:54 AM
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Hello all-
Here's Dick Shaffer's excellent case for using computers in the AP
Stat course, which first appeared on this list last April. Since the
qeustion has come up again (I asked it last time), nodoubt there are
people out there who ought to see it.

Tim Brown
Lawrenceville School
Lawrenceville NJ
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Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 16:23:10 -0400
From: Richard Scheaffer <>
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Subject: Computers and AP
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Richard L. Scheaffer
University of Florida
Chief Faculty Consultant, AP Statistics

In recent years, much discussion has take place around the role of
computers in teaching introductory (pre-calculus) statistics. Since the AP
Statistics Course Description has been out, this discussion has broadened
to include a new audience of high school teachers. I have an abiding
interest in teaching introductory statistics and had something to do with
that Course Description, and so I will add my thoughts and opinions to
this discussion.

In recent times the argument has moved from "some technology v. no
technology" to "computer technology v. graphing calculator technology."
This is a positive step, for those of us who have been around awhile, for
we still have colleagues who insist on students remembering the "short-
cut" formulas for calculations of certain statistics, and make them work
through numerous examples by hand. These hand calculation skills will
be of little help on an AP exam. All formulas used on the exam are given
in the form that was thought to be most meaningful for understanding the
underlying concept, not for simplifying calculations.

Can a student do well in introductory statistics without ever touching a
computer? Yes. Can a student perform well on the AP Statistics exam
without having computer experience? Yes. In fact, a student who
understands statistics can do well on an AP exam with just a scientific
calculator and may do OK with NO calculator. Calculation is not the key
to success here! The policy is, though, that students are expected to have
a graphing calculator for the exam.

The AP Statistics Course Description recommends, however, that students
get some experience with modern statistical software sometime during the
course. Why do I think this is a sound and reasonable policy for a course
of the type we are promoting here?

The AP course emphasizes data collection, summarization and analysis as
the basis for decision making under uncertainty. It is designed to be a
course about the practice of modern statistics, but taught so that the
practitioners understand the underlying concepts that are at work. Since
we are not going to prove any theorems, the only way for students to
understand these concepts is to provide them with empirical evidence.
That empirical evidence comes about most efficiently and effectively
through the use of a computer. I will embellish this general comment in
just two areas, exploratory data analysis and simulation in inference.

Exploratory data analysis is much more than drawing a boxplot or two,
which can be done on a graphing calculator (albeit without scales on the
axes). It is sometimes defined as the art of seeing into the data through
revelation, residuals, re-expression, and resistance. Revelation comes
about first by looking at various plots of the data (stemplots, boxplots,
dotplots, scatterplots, matrix scatterplots, three-dimensional plots, etc.).
Modern software has a host of plots most students have never seen before
and allows for the tailoring of these plots to emphasize certain features of
the data. Also, the plots might be linked so that a potential influential
observation highlighted in a scatterplot will show up on a histogram or a
stemplot, or in the data set itself, allowing connections to be made.
Exploration is only of interest, however, on real data sets, many of which
are too large to be entered into a graphing calculator (although this is only
a temporary problem).

Residuals have to do withFrom owner-majordomo Thu Sep 12 09:03:21 1996
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Date: Thu, 12 Sep 1996 12:03:26 -0400
From: Timothy Brown <>
Subject: M&M's
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I'm sorry that I'm so late getting in on the m&m discussion, but the
beginning of the year always swamps me.

I haven't used m & ms at the beginning of the year, but last year I
used them when we began hypothesis-testing, first to test whether the
proportion of blue ones was the same as the proportion of the tan ones
they replaced (using the proportion of tans given by Mars and
published in Moore and McCabe), then to introduce Chi-Square
goodness-of-fit tests (for the distribution of all colors). We found
that there was *enormous* variation in proportions of each color
between manufacturing lots. So if you buy all your bags from the
same carton in the same store, you might get tons of yellows and
almost no greens. The same goes for buying one 2-pound bag. So you
have to get your students to spread out over town and buy bags of m &
ms from a "random" selection of stores!

Tim Brown
Lawrenceville School
Lawrenceville, NJ

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