Dr Nic’s blog

18 September 2018

Understanding the Sampling Distribution

Population, Sample, Sampling distribution of the mean Among the many contenders for Dr Nic’s confusing terminology award is the term “Sampling distribution.” One problem is that it is introduced around the same time as population, distribution, sample and the normal distribution. A common confusion is between the standard error and the standard deviation. Here is how I explain it: Basic idea of inferential statistics Whenever we take a sample it will contain sampling error, which can also be described as sampling variation. No sample is a perfect representation of the population. When you calculate a sample mean, you do not […]
9 August 2018

Fun Mathematics activities for families

Mathematics is fun There are many cool, fun and exciting things you can do that are mathematical. However, parents can be a bit scared of maths because of bad experiences that left them thinking they were not mathematically inclined. Other parents may be very happy about maths, but not know what to do with their children to help them also enjoy maths. Like reading to children, doing fun maths with children can help build learning and positive feelings for life. Here is a rule: If it isn’t fun, you are doing it wrong. Do not make maths a chore or, […]
25 June 2018

Introducing Cat Maths cards, activities, games and lessons

The Cat Maths cards are amazing Cat Maths cards are available now. The cards are versatile, engaging and afford multiple learning opportunities in mathematics, including statistics. There are also a whole range of games you can play with them, appealing to different people. Children learn well in games, and these rich and varied cards allow for a wide range of games that teach concepts and skills through their mechanisms. We would love you to buy through our shop or by emailing us. Or you will be able to buy The Cat Pack in retail stores in New Zealand. We are […]
16 June 2018

Numeracy crisis in New Zealand

Numeracy levels are reaching crisis point An article in Stuff on 16 June 2018,  We are barely functioning, literally, highlighted the problem of literacy and numeracy in New Zealand. The article focusses on literacy, but numeracy levels are possibly worse. This comes as no surprise to me. The problem according to Doctor Nic The lack of numeracy skills is not new. Generations of people have struggled with maths and many suffer maths trauma, where even the thought of working with numbers can cause symptoms such as panic, the brain shutting down, tears, avoidance. Maths evokes your classic fight, flight or […]
6 June 2018

What Mathematicians do Part 2 – Mathematicians explore

Introducing: the first post from Creative Maths. After seven years as Statistics Learning Centre, we have metamorphosed from the StatsLC caterpillar to a Creative Maths butterfly.  We hope you like our new look as much as we do. This better reflects our aim as a social enterprise to grow a world of mathematicians. We hope you can support us by using our materials, sponsoring our endeavours, and spreading the word. In this post I explore further the idea of What Mathematicians do. You can find the first part here: What Mathematicians do, Part 1. It explains the purpose of the […]
14 May 2018

Spreadsheets, statistics, mathematics and computational thinking

We need to teach all our students how to design, create, test, debug and use spreadsheets. We need to teach this integrated with mathematics, statistics and computational thinking. Spreadsheets can be a valuable tool in many other subject areas including biology, physics, history and geography, thus facilitating integrated learning experiences. Spreadsheets are versatile and ubiquitous – and most have errors. A web search on “How many spreadsheets have errors?” gives alarming results. The commonly quoted figure is 88%. These spreadsheets with errors are not just little home spreadsheets for cataloguing your Lego collection or planning your next vacation. These spreadsheets […]
2 May 2018

Why decimals are difficult

Why decimals are difficult Recently a couple of primary teachers admitted a little furtively to me that they “never got decimals”. It got me wondering about what was difficult about decimals. For people who “get” decimals, they are just another number, with the decimal point showing. Clearly this was not the case for all. So in true 21st century style I Googled it: “Why are decimals difficult” I got some wonderfully interesting results, one of which is a review paper by Hugues Lortie-Forgues, Jing Tian and Robert S. Siegler, entitled “Why is learning fraction and decimal arithmetic so difficult?”, which I draw […]
5 April 2018

Statistical software for worried students

Statistical software for worried students: Appearances matter Let’s be honest. Most students of statistics are taking statistics because they have to. I asked my class of 100 business students who choose to take the quantitative methods course if they did not have to. Two hands went up. Face it – statistics is necessary but not often embraced. But actually it is worse than that. For many people statistics is the most dreaded course they are required to take. It can be the barrier to achieving their career goals as a psychologist, marketer or physician. (And it should be required for many other […]
19 March 2018

Improvisation in the Mathematics Classroom

The following is a guest post by Andrea Young, requested by Dr Nic Petty. Improvisation comedy Improvisation comedy, or improv for short, is theater that is unscripted.  Performers create characters, stories, and jokes on the spot, much to the delight of audience members.  Surprisingly, the goal of improv is not to be funny!  (Or maybe this isn’t surprising–people trying hard to be funny rarely succeed.)  Rather, improv comedians are encouraged to be “in the moment,” to support their fellow players, and to take risks–the humor follows as a natural consequence. What does this have to do with mathematics and mathematics […]
5 March 2018

There are many good ways to teach mathematics

There are many good ways to teach mathematics and statistics Hiding in the bookshelves in the University of Otago Library, I wept as I read the sentence, “There are many good ways to raise children.”  As a mother of a baby with severe disabilities the burden to get it right weighed down on me. This statement told me to put down the burden. I could do things differently from other mothers, and none of us needed to be wrong. The same is true of teaching maths and stats – “There are many good ways to teach mathematics and statistics.” (Which […]