Monthly Archives: December 2014

Should we teach the bootstrap or not in introductory statistics courses?

Chris Malone – Winona State University


One’s success in a course is often determined by his or her desire and motivation to learn.  Unfortunately, desire and motivation are often lacking in an introductory statistics course.  I have learned some tricks over my years of teaching to enhance motivation — leverage their existing knowledge whenever possible and require students to repeatedly consider the phrase “What would happen if … .”[pullquote]Modern technologies and the recent advances in the use of simulation-based methods in teaching introductory statistics have allowed students to easily consider a variety of “What would happen if …”  scenarios. [/pullquote] Continue reading

Facilitating AP Statistics student projects

Robert Lochel, Hatboro-Horsham High School


The Advanced Placement Statistics curriculum contains many natural opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding through projects. In my course, students complete three major projects during the year: an “old wives’ tale” experimental design project, a casino game design project, and a final comprehensive project after the AP exam in May.  Balancing my desire to have students think critically and creatively about a research question, while providing some structure to help students reach clear assessment targets, isn’t always easy. Here are some suggestions for helping teachers design project-based learning experiences.[pullquote] … this was a “what if” we could have avoided by clearly defining each stage of the project before collecting data. [/pullquote] Continue reading

Are introductory statistics students ready to be laced up for the bootstrap?

Karsten Maurer – Iowa State University


In this post, I provide my opinion on whether or not we should teach the bootstrap in introductory statistics courses.  I think this question is best answered in two parts: (1) can introductory students generally understand bootstrapping concepts and (2) is the additional bootstrapping material beneficial for student learning. The first component is effectively questioning “can we?” which is necessary before we try to answer the question, “should we?” My short answer to both of these is an emphatic, yes!  We can and should teach the bootstrap in introductory statistics courses.  My slightly longer answer follows in the remainder of this post.[pullquote]My short answer … is an emphatic, yes!  [/pullquote]

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Using student projects in a simulation-based inference curriculum…And vice versa

Dianna J. Spence – University of North Georgia


Student-directed projects have been a staple of my introductory statistics course for several years, as I want students to learn statistical inquiry through authentic experience. By “student-directed” I mean that the student (or team of 2-3) crafts a research question, defines appropriate variables, collects data, and identifies and uses the correct statistical analysis to address their question. I don’t give the students a list of topics to choose from; I want them to come up with topics based on their interests, and to come up with all of the supporting details.[pullquote]Here’s how I have organized the course to use both SBI and projects, and how I modified the projects themselves to leverage the benefits that SBI brought to the course.[/pullquote] Continue reading

What teachers should know about the Bootstrap: Resampling in the undergraduate statistics curriculum

Tim Hesterberg – Google


Here are some arguments for why we should not use bootstrap methods and permutation tests in teaching Stat 101:

  • Our usual cookbooks of formulas is such a resounding success, inspiring generations of students to further study (and rewarding their instructors with stellar reviews),

[pullquote]Bootstrapping and permutation tests make hard abstract concepts like sampling distributions, p-values, standard errors, and confidence intervals more concrete;[/pullquote] Continue reading

Student projects: A reflection of how the course is taught

Todd Swanson – Hope College


I’ve had students complete projects in my introductory statistics course for at least 20 years. My expectations, requirements, and outcomes have evolved much over this time including how the data are gathered, what type of data I allow to be gathered, and how the project is presented. Things that were acceptable years ago are not acceptable now. The projects have become more and more like real research and the move in this direction has certainly been aided by using a simulation-based curriculum. [pullquote]Projects now reflect the real research studies that we explore in class every day. [/pullquote] Continue reading

New Listserv

For more immediate conversations about these issues, also consider joining the Simulation-Based Inference Listserv. The SBI mailing list  is intended for individuals interested in discussing pedagogical issues related to using simulation-based inference techniques (e.g., randomization tests) in introductory statistics courses as the primary introduction to statistical inference. For more information or to subscribe, go to

How Technology Transformed My Intro Stats Class

Valorie Val Zonnefeld 2013

Valorie Zonnefeld, Dordt College

Have you ever thought about the reaction to the first slide rule in the 1620s?  Do you think some people pulled up their noses, questioning whether students would forget their “calculations”?  Did others dive in whole-heartedly, touting the advantages of teaching with their fancy new “slipsticks”?  Regardless of the initial reaction, the slide rule has left its mark on the story line of mathematics.  There is no question that technological developments continue to change how mathematics and statistics are taught. [pullquote]The ability to use technology to simulate random phenonema has made statistics more approachable to many students. [/pullquote]

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