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Using graphics and simulation to teach statistical concepts

The American Statistician
Marasinghe, M. G., Meeker, W. Q., Cook, D., & Shin, T.

The value to students of active learning has been recognized. This has led to the wide use of assignments in statistical methods courses where students use statistical software and computing equipment to analyze data. These assignments enable most students to master the mechanics of data analysis. The amount of experience that a student can get with such assignments, however, is limited. A sizable proportion of students have difficulty grasping some of the many concepts that are introduced in these courses. Nevertheless, these concepts are important for effective modeling and data analysis, and instructors should focus on them. By using current computing technology, it is possible to supplement standard data analysis assignments and algebraic derivations and have students become actively involved in the learning of important statistical concepts. The learning experience can be enhanced by giving students additional statistical "experiences" by using combinations of carefully designed and implemented multiple simulations and dynamic graphics to illustrate key ideas. In this article we describe and illustrate several instructional modules and corresponding software that have been designed to assist instructors in teaching introductory statistics courses.