Aug 16

The pearls of AP Statistics 13

If you win their hearts, you win their minds.  Have you seen the other side of the moon?

other side of the moonI am criticizing AP Statistics left and right but – what a shame! – I have not been able to reform the AP Statistics course at my university, due to institutional constraints. Exactly for this reason, I have seen the two sides of the moon: what happens when a student is exposed to Statistics à la The College Board versus the right (scientific) way.

Our first year students take AP Statistics. The true reasons why statistical methods work are not shown and the methodology boils down to “remember this, remember that”. The students are overwhelmed with the amount of information they have to memorize. Many don’t understand a thing and are terrified by the upcoming AP exam. I distribute my book to our students for free, but they don’t want it thinking: “On top of this, you want us to study theory? No way!”

In the second year they take Statistics 1 and Statistics 2. The curriculum is determined by the University of London, based on the London School of Economics curriculum, and is solid, with a lot of algebra. In my book, only about 10 facts are not proved (the ones that are really advanced, like the central limit theorem). The students keep repeating: “Ah, this is why!” Their eyes open, they often volunteer to go to the board and continue discussing statistical problems during breaks. It's as if they were lost in the woods and then given the map of the forest. You win their hearts by winning their minds, not the other way around.

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