Message from the Section Chair

Jeff Witmer
Oberlin College

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 8, Number 1 (Winter 2002)

Greetings! As I begin my term as Chair of the Section, I thank you who work so hard in teaching others. Recently I had occasion to reflect upon the fact that working in academia is quite different from working in the business world. For one thing, we make a lot less money. But we also have a kind of freedom in what we do that others don't enjoy and we have the chance to work with young people and to help them shape the future. I feel privileged to work at a college and to be part of the world of education. I hope you do also.

It is always good to be a teacher, but now is a particularly good time to be involved in statistics education. The teaching of statistics continues to evolve in exciting ways. Technology is changing what we teach and how we teach it. New developments in statistics keep us on our toes and make it fun to be a life-long learner and to struggle with questions such as "What topics should I add and what topics can I delete from my courses?" The mathematics community is coming to better understand the importance of statistics and the value of teaching statistics as a major part of the quantitative literacy movement. (OK, maybe some of you would like to see the mathematics community move more quickly to this understanding -- but at least we are making progress! Note that there is a SIGMAA (Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America) dedicated to statistics education. Dex Whittinghill (Rowan U. in New Jersey) has been a major player in the work of that group since its inception.)

The MAA has issued new "Guidelines for Programs and Departments in Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences." Recently the ASA Board of Directors approved our Section's endorsement of these guidelines, which go much further than previous MAA guidelines in showing an understanding of statistics and support for statisticians housed in mathematics departments.

The Quantitative Literacy project of ASA and related projects, such as Data-Driven Mathematics, provide teachers in the schools with resources they can use to incorporate statistics into their classes. Many high schools are adding Advanced Placement Statistics to their AP offerings. The Journal of Statistics Education continues to be a popular and valuable resource for teachers at many levels. The 6th International Conference on Teaching Statistics is coming up this summer in Durban, South Africa. (Take a look at I could go on, but I'll stop my list here.

Many of you are members of the isolated statisticians. If you teach at a small school and feel isolated, or even if you teach at a large university yet feel isolated, you are invited to become a member of the isolated statisticians. This year we are again holding down the cost of annual dues to a level that is commensurate with the salary of a faculty member: Membership is free. Of course, you get what you pay for. There aren't a lot of direct benefits to joining the isostat group, but we do maintain an email discussion list, which averages a few messages per month. People use the isostat list to advertise job openings that are of particular interest to those of us who want to work in academia but who are more interested in teaching than in research. We also have a meeting at JSM every year. If you want to join the isolated statisticians, send an email message to me (

I thank our newsletter editors -- Terry King, editor, and Tom Moore, associate editor -- for their work in keeping you (and me) informed of what is happening in statistics education. In closing, I remind you that Section information is available at and that you can send ideas and questions to me at any time.

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