18 March 2020

Resources in maths and stats for a pandemic

We live in interesting times. It warms my heart to see my discipline of mathematical modelling used to predict and manage the outbreak behaviour. How much easier it will be to explain Operations Research after this! In New Zealand we have yet to feel the full force of the Covid-19 pandemic, but anxiety hangs in the air. Around the world schools and colleges are closing their doors to slow the spread of the virus and students and teachers are forced to enter the world of distance learning. Nine years ago the Christchurch earthquakes meant that the University where I worked […]
8 April 2019

Videos for teaching and learning probability distributions

Videos about probability distributions Many introductory statistics courses include a considerable section on probability distributions, featuring the binomial and normal distributions. Consequently we have a suite of videos about probability distribution models, to help learners and teachers, especially those who wish to aim for conceptual more than mathematical understanding. In this post I will outline the main videos available on the Dr Nic’s Maths and Stats YouTube Channel. They already belong to thousands of playlists and lists of recommended resources in textbooks the world over. We are happy for teachers and learners to continue to link to them. Having them listed […]
9 January 2018

Videos for teaching and learning statistics

It delights me that several of my statistics videos have been viewed over half a million times each. As well there is a stream of lovely comments (with the odd weird one) from happy viewers, who have found in the videos an answer to their problems. In this post I will outline the main videos available on the Statistics Learning Centre YouTube Channel. They already belong to 24,000 playlists and lists of recommended resources in textbooks the world over. We are happy for teachers and learners to continue to link to them. Having them all in one place should make […]
9 November 2015

Understanding Statistical Inference

Inference is THE big idea of statistics. This is where people come unstuck. Most people can accept the use of summary descriptive statistics and graphs. They can understand why data is needed. They can see that the way a sample is taken may affect how things turn out. They often understand the need for control groups. Most statistical concepts or ideas are readily explainable. But inference is a tricky, tricky idea. Well actually – it doesn’t need to be tricky, but the way it is generally taught makes it tricky. Procedural competence with zero understanding I cast my mind back […]
4 September 2014

Sampling error and non-sampling error

The subject of statistics is rife with misleading terms. I have written about this before in such posts as Teaching Statistical Language and It is so random. But the terms sampling error and non-sampling error win the Dr Nic prize for counter-intuitivity and confusion generation. Confusion abounds To start with, the word error implies that a mistake has been made, so the term sampling error makes it sound as if we made a mistake while sampling. Well this is wrong. And the term non-sampling error (why is this even a term?) sounds as if it is the error we make from […]
2 September 2013

Open Letter to Khan Academy about Basic Probability

Khan academy probability videos and exercises aren’t good either Dear Mr Khan You have created an amazing resource that thousands of people all over the world get a lot of help from. Well done. Some of your materials are not very good, though, so I am writing this open letter in the hope that it might make some difference. Like many others, I believe that something as popular as Khan Academy will benefit from constructive criticism. I fear that the reason that so many people like your mathematics videos so much is not because the videos are good, but because […]
10 June 2013

The flipped classroom

Back in the mid1980s I was a trainee teacher at a high school in Rotorua. My associate teacher commented that she didn’t like to give homework much of the time as the students tended to practise things wrong, thus entrenching bad habits away from her watchful gaze. She had  a very good point! Bad habits can easily be developed when practising solving equations, trigonometry, geometry. Recently the idea of the “flipped classroom” has gained traction, particularly enabled by near universal access to internet technology in some schools or neighbourhoods. When one “flips” the classroom, the students spend their homework time […]
6 May 2013

Teaching a service course in statistics

Teaching a service course in statistics Most students who enrol in an initial course in statistics at university level do so because they have to. I did some research on attitudes to statistics in my entry level quantitative methods course, and fewer than 1% of the students had chosen to be in that course. This is a little demoralising, if you happen to think that statistics is worthwhile and interesting. Teaching a service course in statistics is one of the great challenges of teaching. A “Service Course” is a course in statistics for students who are majoring in some other […]
29 April 2013

The median outclasses the mean

The median suffers from poor marketing. All my time at school the “average” was always calculated as the arithmetic mean, by adding up all the scores and then dividing by the number of scores. When we were taught about the median, it seemed like an inferior version of the mean. It was the thing you worked out when you weren’t smart enough to add and divide. It was used for house prices, and that was about it. Of course the mean was the superior product! Why wouldn’t you use the mean? I’ve been preparing resources for teaching the fabulous new […]
15 April 2013

Good, Bad and Wrong: Videos about Confidence Intervals

Videos are useful teaching and learning resources There is much talk about “flipped classrooms” and the wonders of Khan Academy, YouTube abounds with videos about everything…really! Even television news reports show YouTube clips. Teachers and instructors use videos in their teaching, and get their students to watch them at home, ready to build on in class time. A well put-together video can provide a different way of looking at a problem that helps a student to learn. Videos are endlessly patient and can be paused and watched at the students’ pace. (See my earlier post on multimedia for a fuller […]