By Lydia Wang
For the first time at BB&N, two students will take a specially designed independent study course in statistics. Guided by Math Teacher Al Coons, the pairwill meet formally at least once a week, but they will also work and communicate with each other via email or short face-to-face conversations on a daily basis.
Both students participating in the independent study course, Serena Blacklow ’13 and Cam O’Reilly ’13, became interested in the subject after taking AP Statistics, which Serena took as a junior, and Cam took as a sophomore.
“After taking AP Stats, I became even more interested in ways of looking at data and using it to make predictions,” Cam said. “My goal in taking a second year of Statistics is to do more of what I did my first year: learn new techniques and formulae for looking at data sets, analyze data sets with multiple variables, and conduct more of my own studies.
“I like Statistics because it can be used to evaluate data collected from a wide range of experiments or studies,” Serena said.
According to Math Department Chair Christine Oulton, statistics is becoming an increasingly popular mathematics option for students. “Over the past five years or so, there has been an increase in the number of kids interested in taking AP Stats and an increase in those interested in taking regular Stats—many taking it as an additional math course,” said Ms. Oulton.
Mr. Coons described the original AP Stats class as a “workshop course in which students first learn new material by working through concepts with authentic data and creating their own concept and skills maps.”
“One of the great things about the AP Statistics course I took with Mr. Coons was that we had access to enormous data sets, both from the workbook and from several years worth of AP Stats classes,” Cam commented.
“Last year I learned how to conduct some basic statistical tests,” said Serena. “In this independent study, I hope to expand my understanding of the basics of statistics that Mr. Coons taught me about last year.”
To build on the material covered in the AP Stats class, the independent study course will involve “learning new material by ourselves from a textbook and other supplements, then conducting studies and teaching Mr. Coons what we have learned,” Serena added.
“[In the independent study] we are using a new book written by some of the strongest statisticians and authors involved in AP Statistics. It is called STAT 2: Building Models For a World of Data,” explained Mr. Coons. “It includes enhancement to topics from AP Stats, such as a more advanced Experimental Design (Factorial Crossing) and new topics such as Single and Multifactor ANOVA, Multiple Regression, Bootstrapping, Randomization Tests, F-Tests, and Logistic Regression.”
The course is primarily student-driven, with Cam and Serena collaborating with Mr. Coons to define the projects and direction of the class. “In addition to learning new topics and doing further studies, we could work with local professional and educational statisticians, go to statistical presentations, and attend professional conferences,” said Mr. Coons. The independent study will also challenge the students, because they will use professional statistics software in lieu of the TI Nspire calculator.
Cam looks forward to advancing his knowledge through the independent study.
“I find it fun to make sense of lots of numbers,” Cam agreed. “I am very excited to learn more this year, and [I am] especially looking forward to designing some more experiments and studies of my own.”