Math 121 Elementary Statistics

Spring 1996 TuTh 11:00-12:15 South College 6
Instructor: Allan Rossman Office: South College 255, x-1668
Office Hours: MW 1:30-3:00 W 7:30- 8:30pm (and by appointment and by chance)
Textbook: Workshop Statistics: Discovery with Data

Overview: Statistics might be defined as the science of numerical reasoning from data. Its purpose is to aid people in making decisions based on the analysis of numerical information. Data and numerical arguments abound not only in science and social science disciplines but in almost every field of academic inquiry. Moreover, most people encounter statistical reasoning in everyday life. It is therefore exceedingly appropriate and important for all liberally educated citizens to undertake study of fundamental principles and methods of statistics.

Course Principles: I try to keep in mind the following principles as I teach this course:

  1. Statistics is not number-crunching. Contrary to its popular perception as a black box collection of arcane magic tricks, statistics involves much more than numerical computations. The emphasis of the course will be on understanding statistical concepts and on interpreting and communicating the results of statistical analyses. In other words, you will be expected to learn to construct and analyze numerical arguments. In contrast to most mathematics courses, we will be using phrases such as "there is strong evidence that ..." and "the data suggest that ..." rather than "the exact answer is ..." and "it is therefore proven that ...". To alleviate the computational burden, we will often use the computer program Minitabª to perform calculations and produce visual displays.

  2. Statistics involves the analysis of genuine data. Supporting my contention that statistics is applicable in everyday life and in most fields of academic endeavor, you will analyze genuine data from a wide variety of applications throughout the course. Many of these data sets involve information that you will collect about yourselves and your peers; others will come from sources such as almanacs, journals, magazines, newspapers, and books. The contexts for these data will span a wide variety of subject matter; most should be of interest to a general audience.

  3. Understanding results from investigation and discovery. As opposed to passively taking notes while I lecture, you will spend the vast majority of class time actively engaged with the material. You will work through activities carefully designed to lead you to discover fundamental statistical ideas for yourself. You will be encouraged to work collaboratively with a partner on most of these activities, and some will require the use of the computer. My role during class time will be to mill about the classroom, answering your questions and prodding you toward a better understanding of the material. I will also lead class discussions and present explanations where appropriate.

Prerequisites: There are no formal prerequisites for this course. Certainly, no prior knowledge of statistics is expected. The mathematical level of the course is that of high school algebra. Although we will use computers extensively, you need not have prior familiarity with them. I will provide you with detailed instructions concerning the use of the computer and the statistics package Minitabª. What you do need to bring to the course are an open mind for tackling numerical questions in a conceptual manner and a willingness to participate actively in class.

Grading: Your course grade will be determined by regular assignments and three exams. Each exam will contribute 30% to the calculation of your overall score, while the assignments contribute 10%. You are encouraged to work together on the assignments, but your answers must be written up individually in your own words. Some assignments require the use of the computer, so this classroom is available for you at times marked on the door (usually 7-11pm Sunday-Thursday). The assignments will be collected for grading periodically, and no late assignments will be accepted without a written medical excuse. The dates for the exams will be announced in class at least one week in advance. The exams will be cumulative only to the extent that material presented later in the course builds on earlier material. You may use your textbook for the exams; you should also bring a hand calculator. Make-up exams will be given only with a written medical excuse.

Suggestions: With apologies to David Letterman, I offer you the following "Top Ten" suggestions as you approach this course:

10. Come to class. 9. Ask questions. 8. Use office hours.
7. Don't get behind. 6. Don't get overconfident. 5. Work together.
4. Read carefully. 3. Write well. 2. Have fun!
1. Think!!

A common theme emerges from this list: You are responsible for your own learning. As your instructor, I view my role as providing you with contexts and opportunities which facilitate the learning process. Please call on me to help you with this learning in whatever ways I can.

Schedule: The following schedule is tentative, subject to change at any time. It should give you a rough idea of where we will be in the course at various times throughout the semester.

Tuesday Thursday
Week 1 January 25 Topic 1
Week 2 January 30, February 1 Topic 2 Topic 3
Week 3 February 6, 8 Topic 4 Topic 5
Week 4 February 13, 15 Topic 6 Topic 7
Week 5 February 20, 22 Topic 10 Review
Week 6 February 27, 29 Exam 1 Topic 11
Week 7 March 5, 7 Topic 12 Topic 13
Week 8 March 12, 14 Topic 14 Topic 15
Spring Break
Week 9 March 26, 28 Topic 16 Topic 17
Week 10 April 2, 4 Review Exam 2
Week 11 April 9, 11 Topic 18 Topic 19
Week 12 April 16, 18 Topic 20 Topic 21
Week 13 April 23, 25 Topic 22 Topic 23
Week 14 April 30, May 2 Topic 24 Review
Finals week May 7 Exam 3