ASA Stat. Ed. Section Newsletter - V8 N1

Newsletter of the Section on Statistical Education of the American Statistical Association

Contents of Volume 8, Number 1 (Winter 2002):
  • Message from the Section Chair
  • Editors
  • Subscription Information
  • Mark Your Calendar
  • From 0 to 50 in Nothing Flat!
  • JSM in Atlanta
  • A ROUND We Go Again
  • Second International Research Forum on Statistical Reasoning, Thinking and Literacy
  • NEISM6 Meeting
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    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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    Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
    Volume 8, Number 1 (Winter 2002)

    Comments and suggestions for the improvement of the newsletter are most welcome, and should be sent to a member of the editorial board.

    Terry King
    Department of Mathematics & Statistics
    Northwest Missouri State University
    Maryville, MO 64468-6001
    (660) 562-1805
    Fax: (660) 562-1188

    Tom Moore
    Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
    Grinnell College
    Grinnell, IA 50112
    (641) 269-4206
    Fax: (641) 269-4985

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

    Hard Copy
    All members of the Section on Statistical Education are automatically sent a hard copy of this newsletter. Other ASA members can receive a hard copy by joining the Section on Statistical Education the next time they renew their ASA membership (Dues are only $5.00). Non-members of ASA may receive a hard copy by sending $8.00 along with Name, Complete Mailing Address (if within the U.S.A. please include your 9-digit zip code), Telephone, Fax and email address to:
    Marie Argana
    American Statistical Association
    732 North Washington Street
    Alexandria VA 22314-1943.

    If you wish to receive the newsletter via email contact Terry King (see Editors). Please make sure to include your name and complete e-mail address in your message.

    Web Versions
    All issues of the newsletter are also available on the World Wide Web at, and can be reached through the Statistical Education Section home page as well. Two different versions are available. The first version accesses each article as a separate file. If a surfer chooses to print an article, only that one article will appear on paper. The second version is a continuous feed version. That is, if a surfer chooses to print, then the entire newsletter will appear on paper.

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

    Information about the following Joint Statistical Meetings may be obtained from the
    ASA office:
    732 North Washington Street
    Alexandria, VA 22314-1943
    Phone: (703) 684-1221

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    From 0 to 50 in Nothing Flat!

    Roxy Peck
    California Polytechnic State University
    San Luis Opispo, CA

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

    Who would have guessed (well, other than maybe Dick Scheaffer!) in 1997 when the first Advanced Placement examination in Statistics was given that we would now be preparing for about 50,000 high school students to take the exam in the spring. After setting a record for the largest number of exams in the first year of a new subject, AP Statistics has continued to set records as one of the fastest growing AP subjects.

    How will 50,000 exams get graded? More than 230 college and high school statistics instructors will gather at the University of Nebraska for a week in June to get the job done. In addition to scoring the exams, there is also plenty of time during the week for professional and social interaction. The rapid growth in the statistics program has created a need for additional faculty consultants to assist with the scoring. If you teach introductory statistics, and are interested in applying, you can fill out the online application at readers/apply.html.

    The success of the AP statistics course also presents an opportunity and a challenge for those who teach statistics at the university level. The opportunity: Imagine 50,000 high school students who have a real understanding of what statistics is all about! For those institutions with undergraduate programs in statistics, this is a great source of potential students, and many institutions that have focused recruiting efforts on AP Statistics students have seen an increase in the number of undergraduates choosing to major or minor in statistics. The challenge: Imagine 50,000 high school students who have a real understanding of what statistics is all about! For those who choose to major in another discipline, where do we take them from here? Developing second courses for these students who have had a good first experience with statistics and want to broaden their statistical knowledge or who may need to take an additional course to satisfy a general education and breadth requirement is something that many institutions are currently considering. And perhaps an even bigger challenge for universities will be rethinking the content of the general introductory statistics course to take advantage of the statistics background that all students, not just those who have taken the AP statistics course, will have as statistics and data analysis are effectively integrated into the high school mathematics curriculum. (OK, we aren't there yet, but look at the progress that has been made in the ten years!)

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    JSM in Atlanta

    John Holcomb
    Cleveland State University
    Cleveland, Ohio

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

    At the 2001 JSM meetings in Atlanta, the section on Statistics Education had over 60 people attend 10 Roundtable lunch discussions. We tied for the largest number of sponsored discussions. Off the beaten path this year, Jackie Miller (Drury University) led a discussion of using humor in the introductory statistics class. We also were lucky to have Todd Ogden (Univ. of South Carolina) lead a discussion for the second year in a row on Using the World Wide Web in Statistics Education. Brad Hartlaub (Kenyon College) and Thad Tarpey (Wright State University) led discussions related to the Undergraduate Statistics Education Initiative (USEI) that occurred at JSM 2000. Brad's discussion centered on minors and concentrations in statistics, and Thad focused on developing and sustaining a major in statistics. Joan Garfield (Univ. of Minnessota) planned a sold-out discussion on developing statistical reasoning in the introductory class. We were sad to learn Joan could not attend for health reasons, but we are grateful to Beth Chance (Cal Poly) for stepping in and leading the discussion.

    Deb Rumsey (The Ohio State University) enacted a new idea this year. She invited graduate students interested in a career with a significant teaching focus to take part in her discussion. The section sponsored the luncheon fee for these folks who are the future of our section. We hope that this can become an annual activity.

    Other topics included quantitative literacy (Lee Abramson - US Regulatory Commission), Using Regression in the intro class (Joe Ward - Health Careers High School), student interns in industry (John Peterson - GlaxoSmithKline), and reaching out to our high school colleagues (Linda Quinn - Cleveland State University).

    I want to extend a special thank you to all those who volunteered to lead the discussions. This is an important Section activity and I appreciate your contribution.

    The planning for the 2002 JSM is well underway with our three invited session slots confirmed. One session will focus on investigating student learning in statistics. The second will be a panel discussion of graduate programs in statistics education, and the third will be on implementing Six Sigma and quality techniques into the undergraduate and graduate curriculums. More information on these and the other sessions will be in the next newsletter. I am very excited about the program planned thus far, and I hope everyone will consider attending in August 2002.

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    A ROUND We Go Again

    André Michelle Lubecke
    Lander College
    Greenwood, SC

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

    Even before the Joint Statistics Meetings were over in Atlanta, work was being done on those scheduled for August 2002 in New York City and for August 2003 in San Francisco. My task for the 2002 meetings is to organize the Roundtable Luncheons for the Section on Statistical Education.

    To date, I have a number of very interesting suggestions for these informal lunchtime discussions. By the time you read this article, I may have all the ideas and leaders that can be accommodated in New York City. However, do not let that stop you from contacting me and volunteering to lead a roundtable discussion on your topic of interest. I would love to have an overflow list to pass on to the next Program Chair Elect.

    Although not all of these ideas have firm commitments at this point in time, you may find the following topics in the line-up next summer: How to get Students to Use their Textbook; Choosing a Textbook for a Second Course in Statistics; Interesting Tidbits from the History of Statistics; Getting Students to See the Big Ideas; Qualitative Research - A Lunchtime Primer; On-line Courses and Tools. And, back by popular demand (because it sold out in Atlanta), Creating and Sustaining an Undergraduate Statistics Minor or Concentration.

    For those of you who have never attended a Roundtable Luncheon, seriously consider doing so. They provide an easy way to meet, engage in conversation, and exchange ideas with some of the best educators in the field. Sometimes, you get an unexpected bonus as people whose work you have appreciated and admired show up as fellow attendees at the Roundtable you have selected or at the one that you are leading!

    And now a request for your participation in an unofficial "public" opinion poll: Two items concerning the Roundtable Luncheons were discussed in business meetings I attended in Atlanta. One concerned the expense of the luncheons and the other the scheduling of them.

    Particularly when the meetings are held in cities where living expenses are high, there was concern that the cost of the luncheons was the deciding factor for someone considering participation. A suggestion was made that perhaps costs could be reduced by negotiating with the hosting hotel to provide facilities and a "box lunch" rather than a lunch that required a full wait-staff.

    The other suggestion was to not have all the luncheons sponsored by a Section fall on the same day. This would allow someone to attend more than one luncheon and also allow a leader of one luncheon to participate in another.

    If you have an opinion on either of these items, or if you would like to offer your services as a Roundtable Luncheon leader in either New York City or in a subsequent year, please e-mail me at

    One more item concerning the luncheons: there is a limit of 10 on the number at each table. Two things may prevent you from being able to attend the luncheon of your choice: 1) the luncheon is sold out; 2) luncheon tickets are not sold after 2pm on the day preceding the lunch and you arrive too late to purchase one. Therefore, if you see a luncheon topic of particular interest, my advice is to register early! I promise to remind you of this again when I have a firm list of next summer's luncheons.

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    Second International Research Forum on Statistical Reasoning, Thinking and Literacy

    15 - 20 August, 2001
    University of New England, Armidale, Australia
    Reported by Chris Reading

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

    The second in a series of International Research Forums was held in Australia in August 2001. The committee thanks the sponsors; the IASE Statistical Education Research Group (IASE SERG); the Centre for Cognition Research in Learning and Teaching (University of New England); the School of Curriculum Studies (UNE); the University of Minnesota; and the Faculty of Education, Health and Professional Studies (UNE) for their much appreciated support of the research forum.

    The forum focused on the reasoning aspects of students' statistical learning. Researchers attending the forum came from Australia, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA. The fourteen presentations were arranged into four groups, which addressed reasoning about (i) data and distributions, (ii) variability and sampling, (iii) comparing distributions, and (iv) sampling distributions.

    For the first three days each group met and discussed research presented by the members of that group. Researchers were allocated a couple of hours in which to present their data, usually in the form of video excerpts, for the other researchers within the group to discuss. Each workshop session was followed by a discussant-led wrap up which allowed the group to address wider questions related to the presentation. Participants lamented the fact that they could not attend every presentation, but time would not permit such an arrangement. Each of the four groups then presented a summarized version of their deliberations for all participants. These group presentations were well received and generated further discussions, although perhaps producing more questions than were answered. Most groups recognized overlapping themes between the presentations involving both the methodology and the results of the research presented. Final discussions centred around implications of the presentations for future research in statistics education. Recommendations involved a wide range of issues including curriculum and assessment, professional development, technology and research methods.

    Participants also enjoyed a varied social program which allowed them to sample some of the delights of the New England area of New South Wales and the warm hospitality of New England residents. Everyone agreed that the format of the Research Forum, with the small group workshops, was very rewarding and strong support should be sought to continue the series. Session and group summaries will be available before 2002 and a book is planned which will include work arising out of the research forum. Plans are already underway to finalize the venue for SRTL-3 to be held in August 2003. All interested researchers should visit the SRTL-2 Website ( to keep in touch with developments.

    SRTL-2 Co-Chairs: Dani Ben-Zvi (dbenzvi@, Joan Garfield (, Chris Reading (, Bob delMas (

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    NEISM6 Meeting

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

    The sixth New England Isolated Statisticians Meeting (NEISM6) was held at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts on Saturday, September 22, 2001. This meeting like the five previous meetings allow academic statisticians (loosely defined!) who are isolated (also, loosely defined), usually in departments of mathematics to come together to talk about issues of common interest.

    Due to a confluence of problems, NEISM6 was organized at short notice and only eight people were able to attend. Nevertheless, all the participants found the program extremely valuable. The following subjects formed the core of the day's discussions:

    1. Preparing for Classes -- What I Wish I Had Done,
    2. Final Exams,
    3. Using the Internet and Course Management Software in Statistics Courses, and
    4. How Are Our Schools Using Popular Ranking of Colleges?

    As with previous NEISMs, there was considerable discussion and networking outside of the meeting room. A valuable aspect of NEISM6 (and past NEISMs) is the chance to share resources and materials -- in this case, chiefly final exams and URLs. At NEISMs it is always interesting to inspect the classrooms at the host institution. Babson's classrooms are particularly well-endowed with near state-of-the-art fixtures and equipment.

    The initial NEISM sprang directly from the pioneering efforts of the SLAW (Statistics in Liberal Arts Workshop) group. The five previous NEISMs have been held at Williams College (twice), Amherst College (twice) and Babson College. All have been held in early June and lasted two-and-a-half days. In the past a wide variety of topics have been debated. Most have been about statistical pedagogy but we have also discussed more general topics such as the special difficulties that statisticians face when coming up for tenure or promotion. In the past we have also invited industrial and government statisticians to talk to us about educating statisticians. In the past, between 20 and 25 statisticians attended the meetings. All have been from schools without a statistics department.

    Without question one of the most valuable aspects of all six NEISMs has been, quite simply, the renewed awareness and appreciation on the part of participants that the problems and stresses that seemed unique to them were, in fact, shared to a great extent by all statistics teachers. Few of the participants have not carried home a good number of ideas to improve their teaching.

    NEISM6 was generously supported by a grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation.

    At NEISM6 an organizing committee was set up to begin thinking about NEISM7. It has tentatively been decided to hold the meeting in June, 2002, perhaps at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

    While clearly biased, the authors of this report (and the organizers for NEISM6) feel that the NEISMs have been a valuable resource for academic statisticians at small colleges in New England. We are aware that other regions have held their own isolated statisticians meetings and urge that they be continued. Where they have not been tried we urge two or three statisticians to get together and organize one. We are happy to answer any questions about funding and organizing such an event. Robert Carver, Stonehill College, and Phyllis Schumacher, Bryant College, provided invaluable help in running NEISM6.

    Robert Goldman, Simmons College, Boston MA 02115,
    John McKenzie, Babson College, Babson Park, MA 02457,

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