ASA Stat. Ed. Section Newsletter - V9 N2

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

Contents of Volume 9, Number 2 (Summer 2003):
  • Message from the Section Chair
  • Editors
  • Subscription Information
  • Mark Your Calendar
  • Opportunities for Golden Choices
  • Dennis Pearl Receives Honor
  • Statistical Literacy: How We Can Help
  • Mixing Rap Music and Statistics
  • IASE Roundtable 2004
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    Message from the Section Chair

    Joan Garfield
    University of Minnesota

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

    Summer is here and soon many of us will gather in San Francisco for the annual Joint Statistical Meetings. This year we have a great program of invited and contributed paper sessions, as well as our popular roundtable lunches. There should be something of interest for everyone, and I look forward to attending as many of the sessions as possible. Please be sure to attend our section business meeting and social, on Wednesday night, August 6. It will be held in the Hilton, Union 1 & 2, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. Mark your calendars now!

    In addition to our statistics education sessions and meetings, I will be spending time setting up and staffing the ASA Statistics Education Booth. Please stop by the booth to check out the materials on display and to say hello. If you are willing to help staff the booth for an hour or so, let me know. We need as many volunteers as possible.

    The ASA has been very generous in supporting several new and exciting education projects, which have been described in previous editions of this newsletter and in AMSTAT News (e.g., CAUSE, INSPIRE, and TEAMS). At the recent spring board meeting the ASA funded a new strategic initiative grant to support another education project, yet another acronym: GAISE (Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education). This project is headed by Chris Franklin (at University of Georgia) and myself, and will develop statistics education guidelines for both K-12 curriculum and introductory college courses. There are two focus groups that will develop the guidelines, and our goal is to have them approved by ASA next spring.

    I keep marveling at all the productive activity in statistics education and feel that it is a great time to be involved in this area. We now have three professional journals (Teaching Statistics, JSE, and IASE SERJ), national and international conferences (e.g., Beyond the Formula and ICOTS), and an abundance of excellent resources such as textbooks, software tools, and websites. It's almost hard to remember a time when all of these resources and opportunities were not available.

    This past winter Tom Moore put together some important dates in the history of statistics education, and I found out how new and young this field actually is. I have been adding to his list of dates and find it fascinating to trace the brief history and development of this discipline. I have also been collecting historical materials and at some point will write a paper summarizing what I've learned. If anyone is interested in contributing information or materials to this endeavor, please contact me.

    I will end this column by sharing with you an exciting new activity that is being used in mathematics and science education to improve teaching and learning. It is called "Japanese Lesson Study." I've been talking about this with many of my colleagues and am beginning a project next fall to implement this method in college statistics classes. Lesson Study is a process that Japanese teachers have used to systematically examine the effectiveness of their teaching for achieving desired learning goals. The process involves teachers working collaboratively to develop a small set of lessons. Working on these lessons involves planning, teaching, observing, critiquing, and revising the lessons in a continuous cycle. If you would like to learn more about lesson study, here are two excellent websites:

    If you would like to learn more about my project or are interested in participating, please email me.

    Have a great summer and see you in San Francisco!

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

    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) 269-4285

    Brian Jersky
    Sonoma State University
    Rohnert Park, CA 94928-3613
    (707) 664-2361
    Fax: (707) 664-3535

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

    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 9, Number 2 (Summer 2003)

    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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    Opportunities for Golden Choices

    André Michelle Lubecke
    Lander University
    Greenwood, SC

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

    There's good news and there's bad news. The bad news is that this is essentially the same article that can be found in an issue of the Amstat News. The good news is that if you've already read that one, you don't have to read this one, too.

    Folks interested in Statistics Education have been very busy this year putting together some wonderful presentations for JSM 2003. However, there are more Stat Ed sessions than unique time slots so the program may force some very difficult decisions to be made.

    Here's a quick overview of this year's offerings from the Section on Statistical Education. We have three Invited sessions: one Monday, one Tuesday, and one Thursday. There is also an Invited session on Thursday organized by the International Association for Statistics Education (IASE, which should be of interest to our members. Be prepared to stay until the last session! Do not leave early this year or you'll miss out on some of the best! Our Topics Contributed and Regular sessions run Sunday through Wednesday and our Poster session is on Wednesday. Stat Ed Roundtable luncheons are offered Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

    And now, here's a quick rundown on the topics of some of these sessions:

    Monday's Invited session was organized by Ginger Rowell and is a Panel discussion on "Innovative Ideas for Using Statistical Software to Teach Concepts." The panelists are Allan Rossman, Robin Lock, Deborah Nolan, and Beth Chance. Surely you don't want to miss this one. Tuesday's Invited session was organized by Beth Chance. The topic is "Rethinking Assessment in Statistics Education"; Ruth Hubbard, Robert delMas, and Candace Schau will be presenting papers. This looks like another winner to me. Thursday's 8:30 am session is a panel discussion organized by Thomas L. Moore and hosted by David S. Moore. The panelists Brad Efron, Carl Morris, and Nancy Reid will be discussing "Is the Math Stat Course Obsolete?" Even non-morning people should be willing to wake up for this one. At 10:30 am on Thursday, the IASE is offering "Using the History of Statistics to Improve the Teaching of Statistics." This was organized by Carol Blumberg, one of our section members, and should give us all something new to take back to the classroom.

    We have seven Topic Contributed sessions this year. Five of them are panel discussions. The topics for the panelists are: "Using Resampling to Teach Statistics" (on Sunday); one school's experiences with "Redesigning Beginning Statistics Courses" (Monday morning); "Improving Statistical Understanding: Using Writing in the Statistics Classroom" (Monday afternoon); "Reflections of AP Statistics Teachers" (Tuesday morning); and "Statistics Education for Biology Undergraduates" (Wednesday morning). The two Topics Contributed paper sessions are "Statistical Literacy 2003" (Monday morning) and "Statistical Education in the 21st Century: the Role of Technology and the Importance of Teacher Training" (Wednesday afternoon).

    Our seven Regular Contributed sessions fall into a few broad groupings. One can always count on colleagues to have suggestions for activities, projects, or examples to use in the classroom, and a number of these will be shared in different sessions on almost every day of the conference. A few other sessions suggest ideas for topics around which to design a course, or they offer suggestions concerning either a course or a program curriculum.

    A session on Monday morning includes a few talks about on-line courses and on-line testing and also has papers on different aspects of student learning and tools to assist their learning. That afternoon, you can find a session where regression is the theme. There were also a number of abstracts from folks who have been involved in projects studying students or institutions of higher education. The results of these studies will be presented in a session Tuesday afternoon.

    If a topic in a session caught your attention, check and see if there's a companion roundtable luncheon.

    Whatever you are looking for, chances are it can be found somewhere in one of the seventeen sessions and ten roundtable luncheons our section is sponsoring. The on-line program ( will allow you to see the details of each of our sessions. If you search by sponsor, you'll see not only the sessions partially described here but also the additional sessions Stat Ed is co-sponsoring. (If Stat Ed does not appear first in the list of sponsors, we are a co-sponsor.)

    I hope that I have whetted your appetite and raised your interest level in this year's JSM. Take advantage of as many of these wonderful sessions as you can, but remember, you will not be able to attend all of them. Plan ahead to maximize your benefits and minimize your frustration over having to choose between overlapping sessions. And don't forget, while traveling home from San Francisco, start thinking about wonderful follow-up talks or sessions for JSM 2004. Be brave, try something new. Remember all those folks with whom you shared interesting conversations and exchanged intriguing ideas and consider organizing a Topics Contributed session for Toronto. You won't make my life any easier because my job as Program Chair will be done, but Dex Whittinghill will be very grateful, and other Section members will genuinely appreciate your efforts.

    See you when we gather near the Bridge (or on the dance floor)!

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    Dennis Pearl Receives Honor

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

    Dennis Pearl's Statistical Buffet project was nominated by Microsoft to receive a 2003 Computerworld Honors 21st Century Achievement Award. These awards are presented annually to ten organizations, institutions or special projects "whose impact on the information technology revolution has been judged exceptionally innovative, particularly effective, and especially worth of emulation."

    As a designated Laureate, Dennis was honored at a Medal Presentation Ceremony in San Francisco on April 6, 2003. On April 15, it was announced that the Statistical Buffet project had been selected by a panel of independent judges as one of seven national finalists in the Education and Academia category.

    Others who worked with Dennis on this project include Roger Woodard, Justin Slauson, and Deb Rumsey. More information may be obtained at

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    Statistical Literacy: How We Can Help

    Brian Jersky
    Sonoma State University

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

    In a series of excellent and stimulating articles in the May 2003 issue of The American Statistician, four well-known statisticians ask what we can do to promote the concept of statistical literacy. Jessica Utts, the lead author of this series, defines statistical literacy as the ability "to make wise decisions when appropriate information is provided." In addition to asking this question, the authors suggest ways to answer it. In an attempt to whet your appetites so that you read the original articles, I am going to try to summarize their main points below.

    In the first article, by Utts, the target audience is those of us who teach students in an introductory statistics class. The author suggests seven important topics that need to be included in any such course. As I read these, I found myself nodding my head and agreeing that these certainly belonged there, and that I need to ensure that in my next class, I will talk about each one of the topics in a more explicit way.

    The topics are:

    1. When is a relationship one of cause and effect?
    2. What is the difference between statistical and practical significance?
    3. The difference between "no effect" and no statistically significant effect.
    4. Sources of bias in experiments and surveys.
    5. Coincidences and the assessment of low probability events.
    6. Conditional probability in one direction should not be confused with conditional probability in the other direction.
    7. Understanding the key role of variability in life.

    Iddo Gal's article focuses on developing statistical literacy of citizens in general; in particular the potential role of statistical agencies in education. Agencies in this article include national agencies, such as the US Bureau of the Census; national thematic agencies, such as the National Agricultural Statistics Service; and International Agencies, such as the World Bank.

    Gal suggests that links between these agencies and educators are important and should be developed or strengthened. He notes that these agencies have recently expanded their range of services to include journalists and students, in addition to their traditional clients, officials or politicians. They can thus be seen as important players in statistics education and in the task of promoting statistical literacy.

    Philip Boland discusses the promotion of statistical thinking in secondary school students, in the context of important local or national issues. This enables statistics to be taught in a rich and contextualized framework.

    He gives several interesting examples, such as national lotteries and their relationship to probability theory, statistical applications in the law and medicine, illustrations of the power of graphs, and simulation exercises. All of these are examples from Ireland, where Boland is based, but they can clearly be applied anywhere.

    He ably demonstrates how using examples of local or national interest can stimulate students' interest in statistics.

    Eric Sowey discusses how all societies are engaged with the issue of innumeracy, and summarizes some current approaches to enhancing numeracy. He presents an additional approach that would encourage statisticians to enhance their clients' numeracy, and thereby to contribute to the overall goal of increasing numeracy in society.

    He envisages free community statistical services, analogous to free community legal services, and suggests that statisticians could work in these on a pro bono basis. Sowey is based in Australia, which has already moved towards formal professionalization of statistics, so this role could fit into that model. He notes that as educators, we would have to educate statisticians to fulfil this role effectively.

    All four of these articles have extensive bibliographies, which deal with similar or related ideas. The four articles and their bibliographies would make fascinating summer reading, if you were looking for intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking work.

    I highly recommend them.

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    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: 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'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.
              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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    IASE Roundtable 2004
    General Call for Papers

    Richard Scheaffer
    University of Florida

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

    The International Association for Statistical Education (IASE) and the International Statistical Institute (ISI) are organizing the 2004 Roundtable on Curricular Development in Statistics Education, which will be held at Lund Institute of Technology at Lund University in Lund, Sweden from 28 June to 3 July 2004. The Roundtable will bring together a small number of experts, representing as many different countries as possible, to discuss one another's views and approaches to curriculum for teaching statistics. The Roundtable Conference will provide opportunities for developing better mutual understanding of common problems and for making recommendations concerning the statistics curriculum. A main outcome of the Roundtable will be a monograph containing a set of papers, which have been prepared for and discussed during the conference. The monograph will present a global overview of the conference that can serve as a starting point for further research on issues related to the statistics curriculum.

    The need for processing the increasing amount of data people receive in the course of their work and lives has made it imperative that students leave elementary and secondary schools prepared to make reasoned decisions based on sound statistical thinking. Countries and communities have approached this problem in different ways. The Round Table will provide the opportunity for sharing what works and to highlight the challenges and potential solutions researchers have faced as they design and implement curricula to produce statistically literate citizens. The Roundtable will be held immediately prior to the Tenth International Congress on Mathematical Education to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2004, July 4-11.

    The IASE Scientific Program Committee will prepare the program and schedule for the Roundtable. The Committee has agreed on a list of topics that will form the basis of the discussions and invites those interested to send in a three-page summary of their proposed paper. The major topics to be addressed at the primary, secondary, tertiary, or inservice levels are:

    Theoretical papers should include: a) the statement of the problem, b) background or appropriate previous work, c) discussion of main arguments, d) implications for curricular development, e) references.

    Descriptions of experimental research should include: a) the statement of the problem and methodology, b) background or appropriate previous work; c) data analysis and discussion of main results; d) implications for curricular development; e) references.

    Descriptions of curriculum innovations should include a) focus and philosophy of the curriculum, b) background and development process, c) description, d) pilot and implementation results, e) sources and references.

    The Program Committee will review the summaries. Authors of papers that seem promising in terms of the overall Roundtable program will be encouraged to submit full papers. The final selection will be made on the basis of the contribution of the paper to the thinking of the field and to ensure representation from diverse communities across the world.

    Manuscript Submission
    Papers may be submitted for the primary, secondary, tertiary, or inservice levels within each of the topics according to the following process. Authors must submit a three-page summary of a proposed paper for review by the Program Committee. Authors of summaries that are in line with the goals of the overall Roundtable program will be asked to submit full papers. The final selection of papers to be presented at the Roundtable will be made on the basis of their contribution to curricular development in statistics, with attention given to balance across topics and across diverse communities from around the world.

    Summaries should be submitted electronically as a Word file. Pictures and graphs should be embedded within the text. Margins should be 1.24 cm all around in Times, 12-point font.

    Important Deadlines
    October 1, 2003 for submission of summaries of papers to the Chair of the Scientific Program Committee, Gail Burrill at
    November 1, 2003 for provisional acceptance of papers
    January 2004 for first draft of papers
    March 2004 for final acceptance of papers for the Roundtable
    July 2004 for presentation of papers at Roundtable
    October 2004 for final version of revised papers

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