# Class 01: Introduction to MAT/SST115

Back to . On to Data, Variables, and Distributions.

This outline is also available in PDF.

Held: Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Summary: We start the course off in the normal way: By exploring the subject, your motivations for studying the subject, and the ways in which we will study the subject.

Notes:

• For Friday's class, please do all of Topic 1 and read the preliminaries for Topic 2.
• For Friday's class, please fill out the course survey.

Overview:

• Preliminaries.
• Why are you here?
• What is statistics, anyway?
• Some silly (or not-so-silly) examples.
• A bit about the course.
• Comparing sections.
• Parting thoughts.

## Preliminaries

• You are in section 3 of Grinnell's Introduction to Statistics, which is cross-listed as SST-115 and MAT-115.
• My name is Samuel A. Rebelsky. I go by "Sam"
• My co-instructor is Katherine McClelland. She tends to go by "Katherine" (or at least I think she does).
• We're still working on finding a class mentor.
• We'll start class with two related questions ...

## Why Are You Taking Statistics?

• All-too-common answer: Because it's a requirement for Major (e.g., Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology)
• So, why is it a requirement for that major?
• Other reasons we'd hope for
• It's a different way of approaching the world, and I consider the exploration of different ways to approach the world essential to my liberal arts eduction.
• Statistical data are used in many ways, and I want to be an informed citizen .

## What is statistics, anyway?

• One perspective: The study of data
• How to summarize large quantities of data
• How to find useful patterns in data
• How do design techniques for gathering useful data
• ...
• More generally: A technique for understanding the world around us
• Employs a variety of techniques
• Some are quantitative: Formulae and the results of those formulate can tell us about data + Some are visual: We use charts and graphs and other drawings + Some are even algorithmic: We apply a series of operations
• Even more generally: A gateway to quantitative literacy, the ability to read and write quantitative information.
• Historical [modifid from Damn Lies and Statistics by Joel Best]
• Began with attempts to quantify information about the state: population and aspects of populations. ("political arithmetic")
• People who gathered such information were called statists
• Eventually, the work they did was called statistics
• In the 20th century, more general techniques were developed to understand and analyze data.

## Some silly (or not-so-silly) examples of statistical claims

• Every year since 1950, the number of American children gunned down has doubled. (From Damned Lies and Statistics)
• The Illinois legislature has appointed a task force to determine why half of the babies born in Cook County Hospital are below median weight. (approximate quotation from Chicago Tribune in early 1990's)
• Most faculty receive only 5's and 6's on their end of course evaluations. It's clearly a case of Lake Wobegon: Everyone is above average. (overheard from a faculty colleague)
• A study shows that the average worth of someone who attended Harvard in the 1970's is close to half a billion dollars (based on a past anecdote)
• The increase of disease during the 1950's is directly proportional to the increase of activity. Clearly, activity causes disease. (Study described by wife).

## A Bit About The Course

• To use statistical techniques to form conclusions or hypotheses about data
• To present statistical results in a variety of forms (spoken, written, visual)
• You do not learn these things by watching other people do them. You learn by practice.
• We use a workshop-style approach
• Most days, you'll work on a variety of problems in class with a partner
• You'll need to be an active participant in your own learning
• Working with a partner helps you improve your communication skills
• And two heads are better than one
• Our textbook is Workshop Statistics
• I recommend that you use a separate lab notebook to record your answers.
• There is a vast (or not so vast) infrastructure to help you with the course
• Sam
• Katherine
• The class mentor, if we ever find one
• The resources of the Math Lab
• ...

## Comparing Sections

• There are three sections of 115 this semester and two sections of 209
• 115 is intended for students without significant background in calculus
• Students with such background should consider switching to 209
• 209 is taught by statisticians; 115 is taught by users of statistics
• All three sections of 115 are using Workshop Statistics
• This section meets three days per week, the others meet four days per week
• Partialy because of that, we're taking a somewhat different approach to the material.
• I'm following a somewhat steady pace through the material, with one Topic per day
• The other sections are mixing things up a bit, often requiring a bit more out-of class work
• I'm also using a different statistics environment, R, rather than Minitab.
• This section is also much bigger.

## Some Parting Thoughts

• Be responsible in exiting the building
• Conserve energy
• Don't damage experiments
• Two assignments for Friday
• Introductory survey
• Topic 1 in Workshop Staistics

Back to . On to Data, Variables, and Distributions.

Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Samuel A. Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu

Copyright © 2008 Samuel A. Rebelsky. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit `http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/` or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.