1996 AMERICAN STATISTICS TEAM PROJECT COMPETITION

Linda J. Young
University of Nebraska

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 2, Number 2 (Summer 1996)


This year is the tenth anniversary of the American Statistics Team Project Competition. The competition is held for three grade categories: 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. It is a wonderful opportunity for students to pursue a question they find interesting through all phases of the investigation: design, data collection, analysis, conclusions, and presentation. To be successful, students must integrate skills from several disciplines, including English and mathematics.

This year a number of exciting projects were submitted in each age category. For grades 4 to 6, there were two winners. One team wanted to determine whether stores (all associated with the same major grocery store chain) located in areas of their county with lower per capita income sold a higher or lower percentage of recycled paper towels than those stores located in higher per capita income areas of the county. The students carefully explained the difficulties encountered in collecting the data, presented numerous graphs, and used a sign test to help them conclude that there was no significant difference in the percentage of recycled paper towels sold in low and high per capita income areas. The other winning team questioned whether ears grow throughout a person's life and, if so, whether the growth rate differs with gender. After measuring 340 ears of people ranging in age from one to 86, they formed age groupings of 0 to 9, 10 to 19, etc. Using several plots, including a dot plot and a line plot, they concluded that ears do grow throughout life. Males' and females' ears grow about the same rate until the age of 20. After the age of 20, ears continue to grow slowly, but males' ears appear to grow a little faster than females' ears. Two other excellent projects were recognized with honorable mention awards. These also based conclusions upon inspection of graphs.

For the grade category 7 to 9, the team project winners chose to explore whether boys are better in science and mathematics than girls. Random samples of the semester averages of thirty male and thirty females students in each of the top mathematics and science classes in grades 9 to 12 were drawn. Graphs, including box-and-whisker plots, were used to visualize the data. Independent t-tests indicated no significant differences in the average grades of males and females in any of the classes. Honorable mention awards in this age category recognized two team projects.

If you have ever wondered how a cookie crumbles, the winning 10-12 team project provides some answers. Three different brands of chocolate chip cookies were ranked by 82 students participating in a taste test. A cookie crumbling apparatus was constructed and used to break 30 cookies of each brand. The number of cookie pieces the size of a chocolate chip or larger and the weight of the acceptable pieces were recorded. Graphs provided visual representations of the data. Using a chi-square test and t-tests, students showed that palatability increased as crumbliness increased. A very good project was awarded honorable mention.

Science projects often provide a good starting place for entries into this competition. However, the write-up would need to be changed so that the statistical aspects are highlighted and fully developed. Judges strive to follow the development of the project from conceptualization through conclusions. Some more statistically sophisticated projects, especially in grades 10 to 12, were not recognized, primarily because some basic steps in the process were not clearly explained. For example, is it clear how the sample was drawn? Were the students able to collect the data directly (as with the ears and cookies) or did they have to get some help (as with the paper towels and grades)? Data taken from a printed source are not regarded as highly as data collected by students. Projects focusing on illustrating statistical concepts are not appropriate.

If you have never worked with a school or a team for this competition, I would highly recommend you consider giving it a try. The students usually become engrossed in exploring their question. They fervently discuss whether there is a better way to view the data. In most cases, they bring it to a conclusion only because they must meet the April 15th deadline. They would really like to look at "just one more thing". The enthusiasm students have for pursuing the answer to their question makes this a rewarding experience for all involved.

For further information on the Team Project Competition as well as the ASA Poster Competition please contact:

Cathy Crocker
ASA National Office
732 North Washington Street
Alexandria VA 22314-1943
Phone: (703) 684-1221, ext. 146
Fax: (703) 684-2036
E-mail: Cathyc@amstat.org


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