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Category: Statistics Teaching Tools

Posts that contain some information, tool, example, etc. that may be useful for teaching statistics.

Statistics on The West Wing

The United States decennial census features heavily in the sixth episode of The West Wing (S1E6, "Mr. Willis of Ohio"). In particular, the topic of sampling versus a door-to-door headcount is discussed at length. The episode is 45 minutes long, and would probably be appropriate for high school students and beyond. (Not to say that spending an entire class period on this one episode is the best use of time, but there is certainly value to knowing this episode exists even if it is just for interested students' knowledge.)

While sampling-versus-census is a central focus of the episode, there are other subplots. Some of the subplots may be uncomfortable for some viewers, particularly in the later part of the episode. You should watch the episode before recommending or assigning it and know your audience.

The episode is available for streaming on both Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Cast of The West Wing, © NBC
Cast of The West Wing, © NBC
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Prudential's "Stickers" Commercial

I spotted a dot plot while watching TV the other day:

It isn't too frequently that one sees a dot plot on TV, so this is a good opportunity to discuss something students might have encountered. Using this commercial might be a worthwhile topic of discussion in a statistics lesson.

The apparently constructed the dot plot by asking 400 people "How old is the oldest person you've known?" A few more details can be gleaned from the Prudential website and a "behind the scenes" video that was shot.

A few things that can be discussed with students come to mind:

  • What can we actually conclude from the dot plot?
  • The description of the YouTube video describes this as an "experiment" (as does the narrator in the behind the scenes video). Is this really an experiment?
  • What do we know about the sample?
  • What happens as we get older in terms of the oldest person "[we]'ve known"? (Children and adults with a wide range of ages are asked to place a sticker.)

There's a 30 second version of the advertisement, too.


A Comic on Randomness in Sports

I recently heard the Radiolab episode entitled Stochasticity. My feelings on the episode are mixed, and I am currently preparing a post in which I review the episode with some reasonably detailed commentary. At one point in the episode, the 'hot-hand' fallacy is explored, and that triggered my memory of this apropos xkcd comic (there really does seem to be one for every occasion).

Also, all financial analysis. And, more directly, D&D.

Also, all financial analysis. And, more directly, D&D.
"Sports" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe,
keywords: randomness; random number generator; sports;

(View the collection of statistics-related comics that I am curating here.)

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Another comic related to correlation and causation

Tree Lobsters has another statistics comic related to correlation, causation, and the misconception that they are the same thing. This comic really captures the need for greater statistical and scientific literacy and, more broadly, for better scientific communication. It is unreasonable to expect the public to be able to go to the literature to source claims and evaluate their reasonableness - becoming acquainted with the literature is part of what makes scientists, researchers, etc. specialists. Rather, we need to equip our students (all people, really, but we have access to them as students) with the ability to examine reports in the media with a critical lens.

Of course, combating pseudo-scientific thought and media hype is a lot easier said than done. Recently ScienceBlogs had a post using the context of anti-vaccine sentiment ("An open letter to my dad on the occasion of his recent anti-vax Facebook postings") which examines the issue of familiarity with the literature and the need to not seek out reports which confirm what one already believes. It is an engaging, personal read that has some very useful information.

The Overreactington Municipal School Board has voted overwhelmingly to remove all the other thing from its educational facilities.
"#361 This, That & The Other Thing" - Copyright 2008-2012, Tree Lobsters
keywords: correlation; causation; media;

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An actual comic on statistical literacy!

Statistical literacy is necessary for everyone, and this comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal sums it up nicely. (I'm not entirely certain of the technical term for the attitude the woman holds toward the data, but in discussing similar people and situations with colleagues the term that seems to fit is that such people feel that they are 'immune from variability' - that somehow they are exempt from randomness (maybe a 'lite' version of solipsism?). Either way, it could probably be characterized as Level A in the GAISE framework.)


Copyright Zach Weiner (SMBC). Used with permission.
keywords: statistical literacy; terrorists; airplanes; texting; texting and driving; rare events;

For more statistics-related comics, check out the master post.

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