Jun 292013

I spent the last week at the Silver State AP Conference this week with Josh Tabor as the instructor. First, let me just get this out of the way. If you ever have the chance to spend some time with him, do it. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, just go directly to the event. His knowledge of statistics and the pedagogy of teaching statistics is amazing. I will have several posts coming in the next day or so. Some of what I am posting will be pedagogy, some will be content, but all will be useful to the AP stats instructor (namely, me.)

I want to begin with some basic questions and formulations for asking question for the entire course. I think one of the best thing Josh did pedagogically was asking the same two question over and over again.

1. Is there evidence for <blank>?

2. Is there CONVINCING evidence for <blank>?

He started every course of discovery with these two questions. We would look at an AP question, or any question, and this is how it would start. Do we have evidence? Do we have convincing evidence? The next step, however, is evidence for what?


Let me lay out a problem for us to look at. I take a deck of cards and tilt it heavily or completely towards red cards. Make it look like it is a brand new deck, however, so the learners don’t initially think you are cheating. Then, tell them if they pull a black card out of the deck they will get a candy bar, or extra credit, or something.

The first person pulls, and of course, they get red. Aw shucks, no big deal though. Person 2, person 3, etc. At some point the class is going to accuse you of cheating. Of course they are, you ARE cheating, after all.


So what are our options that could be taking place?

1. The deck of cards is a fair deck and the learners are unlucky.

2. The deck of cards is an unfair deck and is Mr. Waddell is cheating.

These are the two options we have, and towards the end of the year we will recognize these are Null Hypothesis and Alternative Hypothesis statements, however at the beginning of the year (heck the first day of class!) these are easy and accessible statements to write down.

Next, I ask the class, do we have evidence for one of these statements? Yes, we clearly do have evidence that Mr. Waddell is cheating. 5 learners in a row got red cards.

Do we have CONVINCING evidence for one of these statements? Now, in the first week of class, we can have a discussion of what convincing means without getting into discussions of alpha or significant. We can think statistically without the math.

This line of questioning is repeated all year long on every question.

1. What are our two options?

2. Do we have convincing evidence for one of these two options?

And so begins the adventure and journey called AP Statistics. I will show more of this structure on questions to come.

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