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 […]
23 September 2013

On-line learning and teaching resources

Twenty-first century Junior Woodchuck Guidebook I grew up reading Donald Duck comics. I love the Junior Woodchucks, and their Junior Woodchuck Guidebook. The Guidebook is a small paperback book, containing information on every conceivable subject, including geography, mythology, history, literature and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  In our family, when we want to know something or check some piece of information, we talk about consulting the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook. (Imagine my joy when I discovered that a woodchuck is another name for a groundhog, the star of my favourite movie!) What we are referring to is the internet, the source […]
22 April 2013

Is statistical enquiry a cycle?

What is the statistical enquiry cycle and why is it a cycle? Is it really a cycle? The New Zealand curriculum for Mathematics and statistics was recently held up as an example of good practice with regard to statistics. Yay us! In New Zealand the learning of statistics starts at the beginning of schooling and is part of the curriculum right through the school years. Statistics is developed as a discipline alongside mathematics, rather than as a subset of it. There are mathematics teachers who view this as an aberration, and believe that when this particular fad is over statistics […]
28 January 2013

Make journalists learn statistics

All journalists should be required to pass a course in basic statistics before they are let loose on the unsuspecting public. I am not talking about the kind of statistics course that mathematical statisticians are talking about. This does not involve calculus, R or anything tricky requiring a post-graduate degree. I am talking about a statistics course for citizens. And journalists. 🙂 I have thought about this for some years. My father was a journalist, and fairly innumerate unless there was a dollar sign involved. But he was of the old school, who worked their way up the ranks. These […]
3 September 2012

What Mathematics teachers need to know about statistics

My post suggesting that statistics is more vital for efficient citizens than algebra has led to some interesting discussions on Twitter and elsewhere. Currently I am beginning an exciting venture to provide support materials for teachers and students of statistics, starting with New Zealand. These two circumstances have led me to ponder about why maths teachers think that statistics is a subset of mathematics, and what knowledge and attitudes will help them make the transition to teaching statistics as a subject. An earlier post called for mathematics to leave statistics alone. This post builds on that by providing some ways […]
16 July 2012

Reading graphs can be tricky

For many people, a graph is not obvious. Let me illustrate: Here are two graphs showing the results from two classes of students in some mythical test out of 10. Have a look at them and decide which one shows more variation. I won’t embarrass you by asking which one you chose. Actually I might. Try not to look at the answer before you answer this. I’ll put a pretty picture that you will have to scroll past to help you not cheat. The answer is that Class A shows more variation. This is little counter-intuitive as Class A is […]
2 July 2012

I am many numbers

All sorts of numbers are used to describe us. The following numbers (with a few alterations to protect the innocent) can be used to describe me: 70, 50, 44, 145, 18, 2013, 176, 12438756, 51008420, 3, 0.25, 2, 26, 6439801802, 36942, 120000, 7,12. They include: number of children born to me, bank number, tax number, age, street number, postcode, clothing size, phone-number, number of years married, height, weight, employee number, level of education, IQ, number of weeks pay in my redundancy package, amount owing on my mortgage. Some of the numbers uniquely describe me, such as the IRD number, or […]
26 June 2012

All models are wrong

In my title I quote George Box, who wrote,  “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful“. I wish economists would remember this more often. Statistics and Operations Research (and many other sciences) are based on the concept of a mathematical model. Aspects of a “real world” problem are quantified, analysed, explored, experimented with, sometimes even optimised, and the results are linked back to the original problem. This idea of a model is one we have tried to teach our students. It is a surprisingly difficult idea, and one that needs frequent revisiting. The following diagram is more complex […]
22 May 2012

Significance

In statistical analysis the word “significant” means that there is evidence that effect found in the sample exists in the population from which the sample was drawn. The choice of the word “significant” is unfortunate, as it is used to mean something different in common language. Reporters hear a scientist say that there is a significant effect, and tend to think big. Results gets reported as significant, meaning big, and we have effect inflation. In reality, if we take a large enough sample, even a small effect will show up as significant. Because the sample is large, it is easier […]
1 March 2012
Percentage calculations

A picture is worth…

I don’t believe in learning styles. The idea of visual, audio, tactile and kinaesthetic learners has been popular in the last decade, but has done a great disservice to many learners labelled “kinaesthetic” and left to play with the blocks in the corner. So when a person tells me they are a visual learner, in the same defining tone they would use to state their height or eye color, I wince inside. What I do believe is that effective learners use many different ways to learn, and for most of us a well-thought-out diagram will help in understanding and retaining […]