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Volume 18 (2010)

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An International Journal on the Teaching and Learning of Statistics

JSE Volume 18, Number 3 Abstracts

Jameel Al-Aziz, Nicolas Christou, and Ivo D. Dinov
SOCR Motion Charts: An Efficient, Open-Source, Interactive and Dynamic Applet for Visualizing Longitudinal Multivariate Data

The amount, complexity and provenance of data have dramatically increased in the past five years. Visualization of observed and simulated data is a critical component of any social, environmental, biomedical or scientific quest. Dynamic, exploratory and interactive visualization of multivariate data, without preprocessing by dimensionality reduction, remains a nearly insurmountable challenge. The Statistics Online Computational Resource ( provides portable online aids for probability and statistics education, technology-based instruction and statistical computing. We have developed a new Java-based infrastructure, SOCR Motion Charts, for discovery-based exploratory analysis of multivariate data. This interactive data visualization tool enables the visualization of high-dimensional longitudinal data. SOCR Motion Charts allows mapping of ordinal, nominal and quantitative variables onto time, 2D axes, size, colors, glyphs and appearance characteristics, which facilitates the interactive display of multidimensional data. We validated this new visualization paradigm using several publicly available multivariate datasets including Ice-Thickness, Housing Prices, Consumer Price Index, and California Ozone Data. SOCR Motion Charts is designed using object-oriented programming, implemented as a Java Web-applet and is available to the entire community on the web at It can be used as an instructional tool for rendering and interrogating high-dimensional data in the classroom, as well as a research tool for exploratory data analysis.

Key Words: Statistics education; Exploratory data analysis; Motion-charts; SOCR; Java; Applets; Activity.

Stefano Barone and Eva Lo Franco
TESF Methodology for Statistics Education Improvement

The need for universities to achieve excellence in the services they provide has been the subject of research for several decades. The idea of involving students and recognizing the importance of their opinions has led to the creation of various models and tools. This paper focuses on teaching, a central service from which improvement actions of an academic institution should always begin. The article reviews and updates the previously developed Teaching Experiments and Student Feedback methodology. The methodology, which is primarily addressed to statistics teachers, allows practical aspects to be organized and decisions to be made based on data that has been collected from students and scientifically analyzed.

The steps for building a student satisfaction index are also described. This index, in its most complete version, takes into account possible correlations between importance of the evaluated aspect and scores, both of which are provided by the students. The paper presents an application of the methodology to a statistics course taught by one of the authors.

Key Words: Course quality evaluation; Teaching experiments; Student satisfaction index; Measuring improvement in education; SERVQUAL.

Simin Hall and Eric Vance
Improving Self-efficacy in Statistics: Role of Self-explanation & Feedback

Novice problem solvers often fail to recognize structural similarities between problems they know and a new problem because they are more concerned with the surface features rather than the structural features of the problem. The surface features are the story line of the problem whereas the structural features involve the relationships between objects in the problem. We used an online technology to investigate whether students' self-explanations and reception of feedback influenced recognition of similarities between surface features and structural features of statistical problems. On average students in our experimental group gave 12 comments in the form of self-explanation and peer feedback. Students in this Feedback group showed statistically significantly higher problem scores over the No-Feedback group; however, the mean self-efficacy scores were lower for both groups after the problem solving experiment. The incongruence in problem scores with self-efficacy scores was attributed to students’ over-rating of their abilities prior to actually performing the tasks. This process of calibration was identified as an explanation for the statistically significant positive correlation between problem solving scores and post self efficacy scores for the Feedback group (p<.01).

Key Words: Statistics problem solving; Self-efficacy; Self-explanation; On-line technology; Feedback; Pattern recognition.

Bridget Hiedemann and Stacey M. Jones
Learning Statistics at the Farmers Market? A Comparison of Academic Service Learning and Case Studies in an Introductory Statistics Course

We compare the effectiveness of academic service learning to that of case studies in an undergraduate introductory business statistics course. Students in six sections of the course were assigned either an academic service learning project (ASL) or business case studies (CS). We examine two learning outcomes: students' performance on the final exam and their perceptions of the relevance of statistics for their professional development. We find no statistically significant difference between ASL and CS students with regard to final examination performance, but students who participated in the ASL project as opposed to CS were less likely to agree that "[they] will have no application for statistics in [their] profession[s]." The estimated relationship is both large and statistically significant (p < 0.01).

Key Words:Business statistics; Experiential learning; Community; Attitudes.

Mary Louise Metz
Using GAISE and NCTM Standards as Frameworks for Teaching Probability and Statistics to Pre-Service Elementary and Middle School Mathematics Teachers

Statistics education has become an increasingly important component of the mathematics education of today.s citizens. In part to address the call for a more statistically literate citizenship, The Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE) were developed in 2005 by the American Statistical Association. These guidelines provide a framework for statistics education towards the end of enabling students to achieve statistical literacy, both for their personal lives and in their careers. In order to achieve statistical literacy by adulthood, statistics education must begin at the elementary school level. However, many elementary school teachers have not had the opportunity to become statistically literate themselves. In addition, they are not equipped pedagogically to provide effective instruction in statistics. This article will discuss statistical concepts that have been identified as necessary for statistical literacy and describe how an undergraduate course in Probability and Statistics for pre-service elementary and middle school teachers was revised and implemented using the GAISE framework, in conjunction with the NCTM Standards for Data Analysis and Probability. The aims of the revised course were to deepen pre-service elementary and middle school teachers. conceptual knowledge of statistics; to provide them with opportunities to engage in, design, and implement pedagogical strategies for teaching statistics concepts to children; and, to help them make connections between the statistical concepts they are learning and the statistical concepts they will someday teach to elementary and middle school students.

Key Words: Pedagogical strategies; Preparation of teachers; Statistics education; Statistical literacy.

Jamis J. Perrett
The Benefits of Using a Course Disk to Aid in the Instruction of Statistics Courses

A course disk in either CD or DVD format can be very beneficial to online, hybrid, or distance courses in statistics as well as traditional on-campus courses, augmenting existing technologies like course management systems. A typical course disk may include the syllabus and course outline, calendar, instructions, lecture notes and lecture outlines, handouts, assignments, interactive content such as quizzes and surveys, software, statistical tables, example program files, program code, data files, video lectures and tutorials, and pertinent website links. In most cases, a course disk would be used in addition to traditional methods like course management systems rather than in place of these traditional methods. Most of the benefits of a course disk are shared with course management systems like Blackboard or Moodle; however, a course disk has the distinct advantages that it need not rely on internet access and it provides access to course materials after a course has ended.

One course disk was developed and used in teaching a graduate-level introductory statistical methods course in three different settings: distance learning off-campus condensed course, online course, and traditional on-campus course. The course disk provided a variety of benefits across delivery formats as well as benefits unique to each delivery format.

This article will (1) review relevant literature, (2) describe the course disk and compare its use to other content delivery methods, (3) discuss the experiences and evaluation of using the course disk in three different settings and how the students in each setting benefited from using the course disk, and (4) discuss the necessary hardware and software and the process of making a course disk.

Key Words: Distance learning; Online education; Teaching introductory statistics.

Lutong Zhou and W. John Braun
Fun with the R Grid Package

The increasing popularity of R is leading to an increase in its use in undergraduate courses at universities (R Development Core Team 2008). One of the strengths of R is the flexible graphics provided in its base package. However, students often run up against its limitations, or they find the amount of effort to create an interesting plot may be excessive. The grid package (Murrell 2005) has a wealth of graphical tools which are more accessible to such R users than many people may realize. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the main features of this package and to provide some examples to illustrate how students can have fun with this different form of plotting and to see that it can be used directly in the visualization of data.

Key Words: Cave plot; Fire data; grob; gTree; gList; Viewport

From Research to Practice

Franklin Dexter, Danielle Masursky, Ruth E. Wachtel, and Nancy A. Nussmeier
Application of an Online Reference for Reviewing Basic Statistical Principles of Operating Room Management

Operating room (OR) management differs from clinical anesthesia in that statistical literacy is needed daily to make good decisions. Two of the authors teach a course in operations research for surgical services to anesthesiologists, anesthesia residents, OR nursing directors, hospital administration students, and analysts to provide them with the knowledge to make evidence-based management decisions. Some of these students do not remember enough of their basic statistics class(es) to understand the principles presented. We performed a systematic, qualitative survey of previous experimental and quasi-experimental studies of the impact of a computer on student learning of the basic statistical topics that form a prerequisite to the management course. Computer-assisted instruction enhanced student learning of the basic statistical topics. We created slides containing both hyperlinks to specific pages of Rice University’s introductory-level free web-based “Online Statistics Book” and OR management examples to provide context for the material. The website is effective at teaching the material because it directs students to test their predictions, which has been shown to enhance learning. Once students have completed the statistics review, they have sufficient background to learn the material in the OR management course. The students use an interactive Excel spreadsheet dealing with OR management topics to provide additional computer-assisted instruction.

Key Words: Active learning; Statistics education; Math prerequisites; Operating theatre management; Anesthesiology.

Teaching Bits

Concetta A. DePaolo
The STAT-ATTIC Website: Links to Statistics Applets for Introductory Courses

Statistics instructors are increasingly using stand-alone applets to illustrate statistics concepts to students. There are hundreds of applets available on the web, but locating a quality applet to serve a particular purpose can be time consuming. This paper presents the STAT-ATTIC (STATistics Applets for Teaching Topics in Introductory Courses) website, located at, as a tool for locating statistics applets for a particular pedagogical purpose. The site has links, with descriptions, to approximately 600 publicly available applets on topics commonly taught in introductory courses, including graphical displays, descriptive statistics, probability concepts, random variables, sampling, confidence intervals, hypothesis tests, regression, ANOVA and chi-square tests. Within each broad topic, applets are organized by intended purpose; for example, applets intended to illustrate properties or behavior are shown separately from those that calculate statistics or perform tests. Advantages of the database over other statistics resources are presented, along with the process that was used to identify and select applets for the site. Lastly, the structure and functionality of the database, including the ability to search and rate or comment on applets, are also discussed.

Key Words: Statistics Education; Computers; Technology.

Audbjorg Bjornsdottir and Joan Garfield
Teaching Bits: Statistics Education Articles from 2010

We located 36 articles that have been published from January 2010 through September 2010 that pertained to statistics education. In this column, we highlight a few of these articles that represent a variety of different journals that include statistics education in their focus. We also provide information about the journal and a link to their website so that abstracts of additional articles may be accessed and viewed.

Michelle Everson and Ellen Gundlach
Teaching Bits: What's New with CAUSEweb and MERLOT?

There are lots of new additions to share this month from CAUSEweb ( and MERLOT (

Data Sets and Stories

Jim Albert
Baseball Data at Season, Play-by-Play, and Pitch-by-Pitch Levels

Baseball provides a rich context to learn statistical concepts, and one can learn much about baseball players and teams though exploratory analyses. We describe three readily available extensive baseball datasets that describe baseball at the season, play-by-play, and pitch-by-pitch levels. We use R to illustrate some sample analyses with these datasets and provide a list of possible explorations for the student. There is a review of the literature and a description how these datasets can be used to communicate statistical concepts.

Key Words: Batting; Density estimate; Lowess smoother; Pitching; Plate appearance; Streakiness.

Michael A. Rotondi
To Ski or Not to Ski: Estimating Transition Matrices to Predict Tomorrow’s Snowfall Using Real Data

Using historical data from the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN)-Daily database, the use of Markov chain models is presented to predict a ‘Snow Day’ at eight national weather stations. This serves as a variation of the classic Markov chain precipitation example, predicting a significant snow depth tomorrow from today’s snow depth conditions. Stations near Seattle WA, Denver CO, Milwaukee WI, Chicago IL, New York NY and Boston MA, were included as they represent major urban centers, while stations in Montana and North Dakota were added to improve geographical coverage. Estimates of the appropriate transition matrices (Pi) are provided, as well as a sample of code in the R statistical programming language to enable construction of similar examples for other geographical areas.

Key Words: Precipitation, Snowfall, Transition Matrix, Weather Models, Forecasting.

Weiwen Miao
Did the Results of Promotion Exams Have a Disparate Impact on Minorities? - Using Statistical Evidence in Ricci v. DeStefano

This paper shows how to use data from the Ricci v. DeStefano case in statistics courses. The Ricci v. DeStefano case was about disparate impact of firefighter’s promotion exams in New Haven, Connecticut. A statistical analysis of the test scores of both Lieutenant and Captain exams indicates that there is significant difference between the average test scores of minority and majority applicants. Analysis of the passing rates and the rates of potential promotion to the Captain position, however, does not show significant difference. This apparent contradictory result shows students that in real situations, different ways of analyzing data can lead to completely different conclusions. During the trial, the court used the government’s “four-fifths rule” or guideline to reach its decision. The paper also presents a guided senior thesis project to assess the statistical soundness of this “four-fifths rule”. The analysis reinforces a previous study that showed that the “four-fifths rule” guideline was not appropriate for the data in the Ricci case.

Key Words: Discrimination; Disparate impact; Legal case data; Ricci v. DeStefano; Guided senior project

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