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 February 2015

Don't teach significance testing – Guest post

The following is a guest post by Tony Hak of Rotterdam School of Management. I know Tony would love some discussion about it in the comments. I remain undecided either way, so would like to hear arguments. GOOD REASONS FOR NOT TEACHING SIGNIFICANCE TESTING It is now well understood that p-values are not informative and are not replicable. Soon null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) will be obsolete and will be replaced by the so-called “new” statistics (estimation and meta-analysis). This requires that undergraduate courses in statistics now already must teach estimation and meta-analysis as the preferred way to present and analyze empirical […]
11 February 2013

Excel, SPSS, Minitab or R?

I often hear this question: Should I use Excel to teach my class? Or should I use R? Which package is the best? Update in April 2018: I have written a further post, covering other aspects and other packages. It depends on the class The short answer is: It depends on your class. You have to ask yourself, what are the attitudes, skills and knowledge that you wish the students to gain in the course. What is it that you want them to feel and do and understand? If the students are never likely to do any more statistics, what […]
17 December 2012

Organising the toolbox in statistics and operations research

Don’t bury students in tools      In our statistics courses and textbooks there is a tendency to hand our students tool after tool, wanting to teach them all they need to know. However students can feel buried under these tools and unable to decide which to use for which task. This is also true in beginning Operations Research or Management Science courses. To the instructors, it is obvious whether to use the test for paired or independent samples or whether to use multicriteria decision making or a decision tree.  But it is just another source of confusion for the […]
8 October 2012

Judgment Calls in Statistics and O.R.

The one-armed operations researcher My mentor, Hans Daellenbach told me a story about a client asking for a one-armed Operations Researcher. The client was sick of getting answers that went, “On the one hand, the best decision would be to proceed, but on the other hand…” People like the correct answer. They like certainty. They like to know they got it right. I tease my husband that he has to find the best picnic spot or the best parking place, which involves us driving around considerably longer than I (or the children) were happy with. To be fair, we do […]
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 […]
10 July 2012

Statistics and chocolate

Some time ago I promised to blog about how to teach statistics with chocolate. Anyone who has watched my youtube videos may have noticed a recurring theme. Helen sells Choconutties. These are a fictitious chocolate bar, originally devised to require a table of prices, which would require the use of absolute and relatives references. As the series developed Helen had all sorts of issues with her sales, which required statistical analysis, often using spreadsheets. For the “choosing the test” video I managed to come up with seven different chocolate-based scenarios. I’ve had complaints from my students that using my materials […]
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 […]
23 February 2012

Drill and Rote in teaching LP and Hypothesis Testing

Drill and rote-learning are derogatory terms in many education settings. They have the musty taint of “old-fashioned” ways of teaching. They evoke images of wooden classrooms and tight-lipped spinsters dressed in grey looming over trembling pupils as they recite their times-tables. Drill and rote-learning imply mindless repetition, devoid of understanding. Much more attractive educational terms are “discovery”, “exploration”, “engagement”. Constructivism requires that learners engage with their materials and create learning by building on existing knowledge and experiences. But (and I’m sure you could see this coming) I think there is a place for something not far from drill or rote-learning […]