Beyond the Formula Statistics Conference

J. Laurie Snell
Dartmouth College

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 6, Number 1 (Winter 2000)

A two-day statistics conference, "Beyond the Formula III", was held August 5-6, 1999 at Monroe Community College in Rochester New York. This was the third in a series of conferences started in 1997 by Bob Johnson and his colleagues at Monroe Community College. The aim of these conferences is to present new ideas relating to the four basic issues on teaching of statistics: application to real world problems, use of technology, teaching methodologies, and curriculum. Each conference concentrates on one of these four issues but includes sessions on all four. The first conference in 1997 focused on teaching methodologies with keynote speaker David Moore, the second in 1998 focused on curriculum with Jessica Utts as keynote speaker. The third, this year, which we will briefly describe, focused on technology with keynote speaker Robin Lock. More details about the Beyond the Formula conferences can be found at

The indefatigable Robin Lock actually gave four talks: "How has technology changed the teaching of statistics?", "Where do we go from here", "Some Tasks for Evaluating Statistical Software", "WWW Resources for Teaching Statistics" and "Some Tasks for Evaluating Statistical Software". Robin teaches statistics at St. Lawrence College in Canton, New York. He is known for his beautifully organized and informative talks. You will find summaries of his WWW resources talk and other talks he has given on statistical education at his web site

Some of the talks were in the traditional lecture format and others were for smaller groups permitting hands-on sessions with PC's having internet connections. David Mathiason from Rochester Institute of Technology gave two such sessions in which he talked about making use of a laptop in the classroom, web resources and how they can be used. Participants were able to explore sites mentioned in the talk and download interesting data sets identified in the talk.

Representing industry, Jason Lucas from Harris Interactive in Rochester talked about some of the real world problems involved in sampling and Patty Cyr from Eastman Kodak talking about what you really need to know about your data to draw conclusions.

As you are probably aware, publishers are beginning to introduce statistics books on the web. Gary McClelland talked about his forthcoming web book "Seeing Statistics" to be published by Duxbury Press. For more information about this book see Robert Heckard talked about the forthcoming web book "CyberStats" published by the new web publishing company CyberGnostics. This is a cooperative effort by a team of about twenty teachers of statistics including Robert Heckard. Jessica Utts is the Editor in Chief and also a contributor for this book. More information about this book is available at: Both books make heavy use of the new teaching resource: JAVA applets.

Fred Djang, who teaches at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford Connecticut, gave two laboratory presentation in which he told us how he uses the TI-83 calculator in the statistics classroom. His talks included a hands-on tour of the TI-83. Kunita Cooper from Minitab Inc. gave two sessions on tips and tricks on how to get the most out of using Minitab in a statistics class.

Laurie Snell from Dartmouth College gave a laboratory session on the resources available from the Chance web site He emphasized Chance News and the Chance Videos. Participants were provided a CD-rom containing the Chance Videos to view after the session. (Time was provided after laboratory sessions for further explorations.) To receive this CD-rom free send a note to Laurie Snell at

Roxy Peck from California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, California talked about their approach to teaching statistics and other courses in a "studio setting", a special room designed to optimize the multimedia approach to teaching. In their introductory statistics course they use a variety of software packages, CD-ROM and video's (Against all odds, Minitab, ActivStats, An Electronic Companion to Statistics, Netscape, SAS, etc). For each topic they choose the one that is most appropriate for that topic. You can learn more about this course by going to See in particular Roxy Peck's "Grinnell talk".

Lori Thombs from the University of South Carolina described their experience adding a laboratory to the traditional elementary statistics course. She presented examples of hands-on laboratory experiments for students who work in teams to design the experiment, carry it out and analyze the data.

Finally, no meeting on statistical education is complete without the wisdom of George Cobb. For this meeting, George gave us an after-dinner speech in which he asked the question: Are we paying so much attention to "how" we teach -- computers, the web, activities, groups, projects -- that we are neglecting "what" we teach?

Bob Johnson and his colleagues are already hard at work preparing "Beyond the Formula 4" which will, indeed, have curriculum as its main emphasis.

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