Mixing Rap Music and Statistics

Joy Jordan
Lawrence University

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 9, Number 2 (Summer 2003)


During fall term, 2002, I taught two courses: Elementary Statistics and Introduction to Probability and Statistics. Always looking for new ways to connect with my students, I found inspiration in a strange place: Eminem's movie, 8 Mile. While not a proponent of many of Eminem's views, I found the movie intriguing and was inspired to rap one of my lectures. Although I soon realized that task was too daunting, I decided to create an end-of-term rap for my classes. After telling them my idea, they eagerly awaited my performance, often asking how the creative process was going (I carried a piece of paper with words and connections densely written on it -- in case I had a free moment to brainstorm). Despite my best ambitions, I sat at my dining room table the night before the last day of class and desperately thought of verses. I was pleasantly surprised at what I created.

The students thoroughly enjoyed my performance and gave me a rousing ovation at the end. I didn't wear a hooded sweatshirt and gold chain, as my husband suggested, but my students still appreciated the connection I made between rap music and statistics. Since that term, I've made a few additions and changes (and it's still an end-of-term highlight for my students). The rap is included below -- you may also see the rap and listen to my performance on my website: http://www.lawrence.edu/fac/jordanj. Please feel free to use the rap (all or parts) in your classes. Perhaps you may even create a rap of your own; if so, I'd love to hear about it (my email address is joy.jordan@lawrence.edu).

Joy's End-of-Term Statistics Rap
Yo-yo listen...
Across the nation
There is a need for standard deviation
For explaining variation
For measuring correlation
          But don't always believe what they say
          in that USA today
          'Cause you know that correlation don't imply causalateh
Is it a random sample?
Is the number of people ample?
Or is the response voluntary?
If so, this could get hairy!
          Is the sampling biased?
          Is the variation vast?
          Then the results aren't legit
          And we can kick your es-timate.

Chorus (think Eminem's Lose Yourself chorus):
Lose yourself in the data, the theory
You want it, you know you'll never let it go -- whoa.
Stats class is helpful, is necessary
You'll use it everywhere you go -- whoa.
          Now here's a story
          Of the residuals' glory.
          Do the errors seem to fan?
          Then rethink the regression, man.
Outliers can have an effect
That you can't neglect.
So first graph the data --
You'll be happy latah.
          Hey -- we have the same birthday.
          Wow!
          But we might see an effect that portends of consequence
          When actually it's coincidence
          Can we really be that dense?
The meaning of life, you ask?
I'm up to the task.
Hear the roll of the drum...
It's the Central Limit Theorum.

Chorus (think Eminem's Lose Yourself chorus):
          Lose yourself in the data, the theory
          You want it, you know you'll never let it go -- whoa.
          Stats class is helpful, is necessary
          You'll use it everywhere you go -- whoa.
Now what if we want to estimate the mean of the population?
Do we just give an estimate, or is there more explanation?
If you say the confidence is in the interval not the method,
Then you haven't learned the lesson -- which is what I've dreaded.
          When you're hearing someone rant
          About a result that's significant
          Ask if the assumptions are met
          Otherwise it's probably crap that you'll get.
If you've been studying all term
Then there's no reason to squirm.
You should have this stuff down pat,
'Cause statistics is where it's at!


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