Isostat Meeting Minutes 8/3/03

1. Welcome and Introductions:  Ann Cannon welcomed everyone to the meeting and started the usual round of introductions.  There were 38 people in attendance.

2. Distance Education:  Joan Weinstein introduced this topic.  Her school is pushing this type of course and she wondered about others experiences.  It was suggested that she get in touch with Kim Robinson at Clayton College and State University and Bob Stephenson at Iowa State University.  Both of these people have some experience with distance ed.

A related question arose about on-line courses.  Andre Lubecke has had pressure from the members of her department to put the stat course on line before they try math courses.  There was some agreement among the isostaters present that math should go first.

3. Skills tests:  Joan Weinstein introduced this topic as well.  The basic question was:  What material should be represented on a skills test to determine if a student is ready to take intro stat?  This question generated many ideas.  They include:  Solving an equation in one unknown (simple algebra), graphing a line and the meaning of slope, do they understand concepts (have them explain what a square root actually does), language skills.  One person suggested using material from the Teacher’s Guide for Friedman, Pisani, Purves, and Adhikari.  It was also suggested that we should try to measure how good students are at thinking abstractly.  The example given was that, though their math skills are good, engineers just don’t “get” confidence intervals, but students with lesser math skills often do.

A related question arose about what to do with students who cannot pass such a skills test.  Several ideas arose including: take a community college algebra course, use an existing center for teaching and learning (if available on campus) to help improve math skills.  Marjorie Bond raised the point that at some schools (including Monmouth) there can be no pre-requisite on the stat course because all students must take a math course, this is the lowest level course offered, so they are going to get the students anyway.

Another related question about an assessment test was raised.  Does anyone have a pre/post test that they would be willing to share with the group?  Roger Johnson at the South Dakota School of Mines said that his department was working on such a test and would be interested in sharing ideas with others.  His test is only a post-test at this point, is multiple choice covering the big ideas, and uses no calculators.

4. Announcements/General Discussion

Ann Cannon asked a question about what to do for funding for future isostat meetings.  The ASA is now requiring us to pay for things like overhead projectors and since we have no budget, that is a concern.  Should we do without or should we seek funding elsewhere?  There was general agreement that we should ask the Stat Ed Section if they would be willing to fund a projector if it seemed important.
(Editors note:  The section approved giving us the limited funding we were looking for.)

Robin Lock put out a request for people to contact him with project ideas that he could post on a website.  The website would be a place where educators could go to find an appropriate project for their students.  If you have something for him, please send email to

Dex Whittinghill announced that he is looking for topic contributed paper sessions for next year’s JSM.  These sessions have either 5 speakers or 3 panelists.  For more information contact Dex at  These should be organized before, and submitted between, Dec. 1 and Feb.1.

There was a short discussion about nominating isostaters for ASA fellow.   Dex is a member of the ASA’s “Working Group to Identify Potential Fellows from the Isolated Statistician Community” and Robin Lock is on the Stat Ed committee on fellows which nominates statistics educators for this recognition.

We finished with a discussion about where the group should go from here.  There was general agreement that we need to promote the group so that others know that we exist.  This may include an article in the AmStat News, information at the First-time Attendees reception at JSM, sending a mailing to math departments addressed to the statistician, and letting grad students know we exist.  There was some discussion about whether we want to turn into a section.  We already are an affiliate group with the ASA and there was general agreement that at this point we want to remain more or less a rogue group rather than pursue becoming a section.  Ann Cannon, Dex Whittinghill and Jeff Witmer will be working on a draft mission statement for the group.  Joy Jordan will be putting together a webpage for the group (Editor’s note: It now exists – check out   And Jeff Witmer said that he would look into archiving the isostat email list.

Respectfully submitted,

Ann Cannon