Statistics 100

Ellen Fireman
F1 (TR 11:00 am-12:20 in Lincoln Hall Theater)

Karle Laska
C1 (MWF 10:00 - 10:50am, Temple Hoyne Buell Hall 134)
H1 (MWF 12:00 - 12:50pm, Everitt 151)
P1 (MWF 1:00 - 1:50pm, Everitt 151)

Uma Ravat
G1 (TR 12:30 - 1:50pm Everitt 151)

Seokwoo Choi
B1 (MWF 10:00 - 10:50am Lincoln Hall 1065)


Why everyone needs to know basic statistics

Statistics is a tool to make sense of large amounts of information. Common sense can only handle limited amounts of information. Until recently common sense was sufficient for most people because daily life didn't involve processing a large amount of data. But in the past 30 years or so, with the advent of personal computers, large stores of information have become readily available. You can either choose to ignore the information available or you can choose to make sense of it, which means learning statistics.

Why most people think statistics is boring or worse.

Most people think statistics is boring for a good reason--it's not about anything! Art is about beauty, science is about nature, history is about people... and statistics is about nothing. It's just a tool, but it's such a difficult tool for most people to learn how to use, that it becomes worse than boring, it becomes tedious, confusing and frustrating.

Why Stat 100 is not too boring or frustrating

Statistics is to data, what grammar is to words. And like grammar, it's only interesting if it's used to understand something interesting. In Stat 100 we use statistics to research a topic we're all interested in--ourselves. We'll collect data on ourselves through anonymous surveys. If we can come up with interesting questions that we can only answer through learning statistics, the process will be less painful and more productive.

Students tell me that after Stat 100 they:

  • read the newspaper in a new way, without their eyes glazing over when they see quantitative information
  • know what questions to ask in evaluating studies and surveys
  • understand what questions can and cannot be answered by statistical arguments
  • appreciate how much of what matters to them can be better understood with statistics
  • feel much more confident applying both logical reasoning and common sense to quantitative topics but are very aware that their intuition can sometimes be so wrong that it's shocking
  • But what's most surprising is they ACTUALLY LIKE STATISTICS!!!!!!
  • Meditations on the Statistical Method

    Plato despair!
    We prove by norms
    How numbers bear
    Empiric forms,

    How random wrongs
    Will average right
    If time be long
    And error slight;

    But in our hearts
    Hyperbole
    Curves and departs
    To infinity.

    Error is boundless.
    Nor hope nor doubt,
    Though both be groundless,
    Will average out.

    JV Cunningham