George W. Cobb
Mount Holyoke College

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 1, Number 2 (Summer 1995)

In 1990 the Mathematical Association of America invited the ASA to collaborate in forming an ad hoc joint committee on undergraduate statistics. The committee, which has roughly two dozen members, holds two open meetings a year: one at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in January, and one at the Joint Statistics Meetings in August.

Here are some of the group's activities:

1991 MAA's Curricular Action Project made statistics the subject of one of its five focus groups (See Steen, 1992 for the group's report).

1992 Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences Chairs' Colloquium: George Cobb presented the recommendations of the Focus group.

1993 Joint Mathematics Meetings:

(a) Mary Parker organized and chaired a contributed paper session, "Using data in the teaching of statistics."

(b) In a joint effort with the Statistics in the Liberal Arts Workshop (SLAW), Don Bentley, Robin Lock, Tom Moore, Mary Parker, and Jeff Witmer presented a minicourse on teaching statistics.

1995 Joint Mathematics Meetings: Robert Hayden and Mary Parker organized and chaired a contributed paper session, "Making statistics come alive."

1993-5 STATS Project. NSF-funded workshops for mathematicians who teach statistics.

The STATS workshops.

The MAA's STATS project (Statistical Thinking and Teaching Statistics) was designed for mathematicians, who teach statistics but who do not have recent or advanced training in the subject, in order to introduce them to some recent developments in statistics, especially those that distinguish statistics from mathematics. Each workshop is run by a coordinator and two presenters, all nationally known statisticians committed to education and actively involved in applied work. Funding is provided by a grant to the MAA from the Division of Undergraduate Education of the National Science Foundation.

In all, nine regional workshops have been funded: two were held in 1993 and three in 1994, with four more planned for summer 1995. For the three years combined, we have received about 500 applications for the 216 available places. The number and nature of the applications we received has been a gratifying confirmation that there is a need for the workshops, and that the intended audience can indeed be reached. The vast majority of the applicants (roughly 90%) have met our two main criteria: they are (1) involved in teaching statistics to undergraduates, but (2) without recent or formal training in statistics. Roughly half of the applicants have had no post-baccalaureate training in the subject at all. (Surely no other subject in the sciences is so often taught by those with so little training in the subject.)

For further reading:

Albers, D.J., D.O. Loftsgaarden, D.C. Rung, and A.E. Watkins, eds., Statistical Abstract of Undergraduate Programs in the Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science in the United States: 1990-91 CBMS Survey, MAA Notes No. 23. Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America.

Cobb, G.W. (1993). "Reconsidering Statistics Education: A National Science Foundation Conference," Journal of Statistics Education, v.1, No. 1.

Gordon, F. and S. Gordon, eds. (1992). Statistics for the Twenty First Century, MAA Notes No. 26. Washington: Mathematical Association of America.

Hoaglin, D.C. and D.S. Moore, eds.(1992). Perspectives on Contemporary Statistics, MAA Notes No. 21. Washington: Mathematical Association of America.

National Research Council (1994). Modern Interdisciplinary University Statistics: Proceedings of a Symposium. Washington: National Academy Press.

Steen, L. A. (1992). Heeding the Call for Change: Suggestions for Curricular Action, MAA Notes No. 22. Washington: Mathematical Association of America.

For additional information contact

George W. Cobb
Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA 01075
Phone: (413) 538-2401
FAX: (413) 538-2239

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