Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meet Matt Beckman!

Hi, my name is Matt Beckman. I’m a part-time PhD student in my second year of the Statistics Education program at the U of M. I earned my Bachelor’s in Mathematics from Penn State University and a secondary education teaching certification in Pennsylvania prior to pursuing a Master’s in Statistics at the University of Minnesota which I completed in 2008. I currently work full time as a Statistician for a large medical device manufacturer in the Twin Cities called Medtronic. My responsibilities include statistical analysis for the Neuromodulation business and I volunteer as one of the instructors of a statistics curriculum developed by Medtronic to train engineers and other personnel across the company to use statistics effectively in their jobs.

In addition to my role as an instructor at Medtronic,I have benefited from a few diverse teaching experiences including student teaching placements as an undergraduate, a summer school position and independent tutor following graduation, a few appointments as a teaching assistant during my time in the Statistics Department, and two semesters as adjunct faculty at the U of M following completion of my Master’s. My research interests relate to my experience teaching statistics to quantitative professionals and teaching in intensive seminar environments, since these topics relate to my work at Medtronic.

Between a demanding full-time job, an awesome wife of two and half years, and our new puppy…it’s tough for me to find time for more than one or two classes per semester. In the spring I’m looking forward to taking EPSY 8271 which is a statistics education research seminar with my advisors Joan and Bob and several other friends in the program. It’s sometimes a challenge to keep up with everyone as a part-time student, so I’m excited to have a structured opportunity to see everyone each week in addition to honing my research interests.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everson Invited to Blog for eLearn Magazine

Michelle Everson has been invited to write a monthly blog for eLearn Magazine. Her first contribution is aptly titled, Why Should Educators Blog? Reflective Writing Can Positively Affect Teaching.

Hopefully, Michelle will let us know each month when her new entry is posted and we will update you. In the meantime, catch up on some of her past scholarship for eLearn Magazine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Congratulations Ulrike!

And welcome to the newest Catalyst for Change, Max! Ulrike Genschel, a CATALST implementer from Iowa State, had a baby and he is definitely less than 0.01 (highly significant). We wish her and Max the best. Ulrike writes,

Max was born on Saturday, December 4th. Although a few weeks early, he is doing great and healthy.
Max-imum Likelihood

Are those concentric negative quadratic curves above Max's head?
Max implements a nap.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meet Audbjorg Bjornsdottir!

Did someone say bootstrap?
Hi my name is Audbjorg Bjornsdottir but I go by Auja. I am a third year PhD student in statistics education. I have an undergrad in anthropology, a MA in sociology/criminology and a post-graduate diploma in teaching all from the University of Iceland. This year I also received my MA in statistics education.

Now I am taking two classes: MTHE 5314 Teaching and Learning Mathematics and CI 5325 Designing and Developing Online Distance Learning. Both these classes are very interesting and fun. Most of the students in the math education class are k-12 math teachers and I really enjoy hearing and getting to know their perspective toward teaching math or statistics at a level unfamiliar to me. The CI 5325 course is one of four courses that count towards a certificate in Online Distance Learning offered here at the U. Since I have been teaching introductory statistics online since spring 2009 I decided to get that certificate along with my Ph.D. degree. This course is the second one I take as apart of that certificate and I love it for its practicality. For example this semester I have been evaluating different content managing systems that are used in online teaching and at the end of the semester I am supposed to design my own course. The course is offered online; we are introduced to the latest technology (how to use it) and research in online teaching in a very much hands on and pragmatic approach. I benefit much from taking this course and the certificate because I have just begun the process of working on my dissertation, which will be about how to administer group quizzes successfully in an online introductory statistics course.

Congratulations Nick Horton!

Screen shot of Nick from the video.
Three faculty members were named 2010 recipients of the Kathleen Compton Sherrerd ’54 and John J. F. Sherrerd Prizes for Distinguished Teaching. They are: Nicholas Horton, associate professor of mathematics and statistics; Róisín O'Sullivan, associate professor of economics; and Michael Thurston, professor of English language and literature. The Sherrerd Prize is given annually to Smith faculty members in recognition of their distinguished teaching records and demonstrated enthusiasm and excellence.

You can watch Nick in a video here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Meet Jiyoon Park!

Hi all!

Jiyoon Park considers her own
neuroscientific process.
This is Jiyoon Park, another Ph.D. student in the Statistics Education Program at the University of Minnesota. This is my third year of studying statistics education. My undergraduate studies were in mathematics education in Korea, and afterward, I taught mathematics in a high school in Seoul for four years. I got my Master's degree in mathematics education at UT-Austin, and came to Minnesota in 2008. 

Now I am taking two courses, and teaching one statistics course. The courses I am taking are--EPSY 8215 (Advanced Research Methodology, Dr. Harwell) and EPSY 8114 (Mathematical Cognition, Dr. Varma). The research methods course is a requirement for all EPSY Ph.D. students. This is very helpful course to learn about experimental design in educational settings, especially if you are at the beginning stage of your dissertation. This course is designed to help us prepare an oral prelim paper, as well as, the methodology section of the dissertation.  I am taking the cognition course because I wanted to learn something about "reasoning", "problem solving", and approaches to "understanding people's thinking process". These are all related to the topic of my dissertation.  In addition to the topics of cognition and thinking, we are also learning about neuroscientific approaches to understanding people's thinking process, which is really fun!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Following Recipes: Statistics and a Failed Blackberry Pie

I am a passionate and confident cook, but I am a little afraid of making pies. The pie crusts in particular intimidate me. Last week I watched a video on food52 on the making of a prizewinning blackberry pie. I watched every detail, read the recipe, and was determined to make a perfect blackberry pie. I assembled all the ingredients and tried to replicate every step I had seen on the video. When the pie was finished, it looked perfect. I was euphoric: I did it! Then, I cut into the pie to serve it, and it collapsed into a mess of soggy bottom crust and juices everywhere.

What went wrong? I had followed the recipe exactly. That is where I went wrong. My intuition had told me to bake the bottom crust first, because that is what I had done before with fruit pies, to keep it from getting soggy. I also should have added more thickener to the berries. By blindly following a recipe, I had ignored the general cooking wisdom I had gained over the years. Perhaps the berries I used were juicier than those in the video, perhaps my dough was a little wetter than theirs

So how does this relate to statistics? We are designing and teaching an intro stats course that is all about teaching students to really cook (do statistics) rather than just follow recipe. So many introductory courses teach students step-by-step procedures that they follow without thinking or critiquing, like novices. In these courses we may try to provide some theory or rationale for what we do, but we still are teaching recipes, rather than real cooking techniques.

In our CATALST course we aimed to teach students the cooking method of creating models and using them to simulate data, and to use there data to test whether an observed value or difference is surprising, given a particular model. We have spent almost half the course helping students think about models, how to create them using TinkerPlots™ software, how to generate data from them, and how to use the data to evaluate their observed data in order to draw inferences. We hope we are building a foundation of knowledge to enable students to use this approach in their future classes or work---whether they use this particular software tool or not. Rather than walk out of class with a recipe for a t-test that they may or may not ever use again, we hope our students will leave class with some experience doing statistics and the ability to think statistically about real world problems and the nature of statistical inferences.

Even though I tried to reproduce the blackberry pie recipe exactly, I had no way of knowing if my ingredients were exactly the same, my oven the same temperature, my pan the same as theirs, etc. All those things can make a big difference, and a wise cook knows this and can try to compensate and adjust as needed. A novice, follows the instructions blindly, as I did this time. In statistics too, following a procedure blindly, like running a t-test to compare two samples of data, can give different results depending on the characteristics of the samples, where the data came from, etc. We want our students to think critically and statistically when using statistical methods, drawing on their “cooking” knowledge about data, sampling methods, variability, distributions, etc. My pie fiasco served as a reminder of the importance of thinking and questioning rather than blindly following a recipe.

--- This essay was written by Joan Garfield.

Beth Chance's Visit

Joan Garfield expounds on Beth Chance's visit to the University of Minnesota October 3–4.

Last week (Editors Note: It was almost two weeks ago now since I am not too fast at posting these.) Beth Chance spent a few days with us. It began with a Sunday afternoon run around Lake Harriet, followed by dinner with my husband Michael and me, along with Andy and Lauren Zieffler. 

Early Monday morning Beth visited our experimental CATALST course, being taught by Laura Le. She collected  and summarized minute papers that students wrote about their experiences in the course and using TinkerPlots™ software.  After class Beth attended our weekly CATALST meeting with our team of Bob, Andy, me, Laura Le, Laura Ziegler , Rebekah  and Jiyoon. We debriefed that morning’s class, discussed the feedback on the minute papers, and then had a lively discussion of the next unit in the class on comparing groups using randomization tests and bootstrap confidence intervals. 

The Statistics Education Catalyst group met with Beth for lunch. Each person shared their current work and projects and Beth shared her sabbatical plans. She offered to participate on students’ doctoral committees since there are no graduate students in statistics education at Cal Poly. Beth talked a little about AP Statistics and put in a plug for people in our group to sign up to be readers this summer (along with Laura Z. who has done this for several years). Since them Michelle has completed the application and perhaps a few others will as well! 

After lunch we had a conference call with Allan and John to talk about our CATALST course and plans for the third unit which keeps evolving. The final activity of the day was a meeting with Michelle, Beth and me to talk about Beth’s involvement in co-teaching our graduate course, Becoming a Teacher of Statistics this spring. Beth will be visiting us again sometime this spring  and we look forward to her next visit!

Meet Laura Le!

Life as a (2nd year statistics education PhD)
graduate student...double-fisting espresso

Hello out there…

Laura Le reporting here.  I'm another Ph.D. graduate student in the Statistics Education department at the University of Minnesota, kicking off my second year in the program.  I obtained a mathematics/stastistics BA degree from Luther College in 2006 and continued on to get a Master's Degree in Statistics from the University of Minnesota.

The question I get a lot is, "how in the world did you get into statistics education?" Here's my story (short and sweet): My mama always told me i was going to be a teacher, but I was in denial about it for many years.  When I entered my Master's Degree program, I didn't know what I wanted to do with a statistics degree.  I knew I liked math and learning about a lot of different other fields so statistics seemed like a good fit.  Then the statistics department gave me the opportunity to teach my own class, and I got hooked on teaching statistics. The end.  :)

This semester, I'm taking three courses in the Educational Psychology department: Survey Design, Implementation and Analysis, Hierarchical Linear Modeling, and Qualitative Research Methods.  They are all really interesting topics and are a good balance for coursework.  In particular, Qualitative Research Methods intrigue me. It is a type of research methodology I haven't been exposed to much, but knew it was out there.  I'm learning a lot about the field, like how good qualitative research should be conducted and what are different types of qualitative methods (e.g., biography, phenomenology). I'm looking forward to one of the assignments in class, collecting observations from a public place.  I think this will definitely be useful for my career as a statistics educator.

This is Laura Le, signing out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

George Cobb & the Cobb-O-Lantern

George and the Cobb-O-Lantern at Stat Chat in October 2009.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Meet Rebekah Isaak!

Rebekah tries out a new hairstyle at the Renaissance Festival

Greetings! My name is Rebekah Isaak and I am a second year Ph.D. student in Statistics Education at the University of Minnesota. I have my Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Drexel University. This fall, I am taking three courses in the Department of Educational Psychology: EPSY 8264 (Advanced Multiple Regression), EPSY 5247 (Qualitative Research Methods), and EPSY 5244 (Survey Design). All three courses are practical and fascinating, but Survey Design is currently the most applicable to my research interests. 

As a project for the Survey Design course, I am designing and piloting a survey to measure mathematics, computation, and statistics instructors’ perceived value of online presentations, called M-CASTsto their own teaching after viewing them. As a piece of the NSF-funded Project MOSIAC, these presentations are designed to “improve undergraduate STEM education by better integrating Modeling, Statistics, Computation, and Calculus" and to "provide a quick and easy way for educators to share ideas, get reactions from others, and form collaborations". I plan to use the data gathered to identify M-CASTs that seem to be of pedagogical value. Extensions of this work might use M-CASTs of perceived value as examples in order to identify the characteristics of M-CASTs that contribute to “effectiveness” in the teaching of the concepts they cover.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Real Photo of Allan and Beth Together

It's Probably Time to Introduce Another Graduate Student...

Becoming a Teacher of Statistics over Roast Beef

Michelle Everson describes her meeting with Beth Chance And Allan Rossman,
On Friday,October 1st, I met with Beth Chance and Allan Rossman. Beth and Allan were heading through Minnesota on their way to give a workshop in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We met at Arby's in Osseo, MN, and had dinner together. Our main purpose in meeting was to talk about the "Becoming a Teacher of Statistics" course. Beth is now on sabbatical and is interested in finding out more about the course, and she'd like to be involved in some way with the course when it is taught again in the spring. We talked about this, along with a variety of other things, and it was nice to have the opportunity to hear more about what Beth and Allan are doing and to get to know them better. I always enjoy spending time with them, and I continue to learn so much from them.
Blogger's Note: There are no pictures of Allan and Beth together that come up on a Google image search, but here is a picture of a book they wrote where their names appear together. 

Note to the Blogger's Note: If the a priori null hypothesis had been that there are no images of Beth and Allan together that would come up in a Google search, this blogger would have put even money on the null being rejected at the 0.0001 significance level.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Meet Laura Ziegler!

From time to time we will put up posts that introduce you to some of the Catalysts for Change. For our inaugural post in this vein, we invite you to meet Laura Ziegler, one of the graduate students in Statistics Education at the University of Minnesota.

Laura and her husband on their wedding day.
Hello!  My name is Laura Ziegler, and I am working on a Ph.D. in Statistics Education. This is my first year at University of Minnesota, but I already have a Master's Degree in Statistics. I am currently taking 4 classes: EPSY 5221 (Principles of Educational and Psychological Measurement), EPSY 5247 (Qualitative Methods in Educational Psychology), EPSY 5243 (Principles and Methods of Evaluation), and MTHE 8571 (Research in Mathematics Education). All of my classes are very interesting and useful, in particular the math education research course. We have a group of 8 students in the class and 3 of us are not Mathematics Education majors. We have a lot of good discussions and it is interesting to see how education research is similar and/or dissimilar in different fields. One benefit of this class is that we write a research proposal. This is a good way to get feedback on a proposal to see where you can make improvements.

Congratulations Tamara!

Tamara Moore
Tamara J. Moore (assistant professor of mathematics education, curriculum and instruction, and co-director of the STEM Education Center) has received a $400,109 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), to research implementing K-12 engineering standards through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) integration.

The award is one of NSF's highest honors for early-career faculty whose research builds a firm foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions to research and education. The grant will begin October 1, 2010, and will continue for five years.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Michelle Everson's Blog

The Catalyst for Change blog is not the only game in town. Michelle Everson has also started a blog in which she reflects and pontificates about stories and resources related to education and statistics. You can check out her musings at http://eversononline.com/.

Photos from JSM 2010

Here are some more photos of Catalysts for Change at JSM.

Bob and Rob discuss the finer points of randomization.

George provides a metaphor and Joan wishes it was about cooking. In the background Laura giggles at Danny's joke - "What do you call a tea party of more than 30 people? A z-party."
Brian tries to follow George's metaphor and Danny's joke.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Catalysts working on CATALST at JSM

Just a couple of quick updates...A couple weeks ago, Michelle Everson co-facilitated a workshop with Dave Ernst (http://www.cehd.umn.edu/ats/treks/transform.html), working with 15 faculty, staff, and graduate student instructors in the College of Education as they prepare to develop hybrid courses. Michelle says,
It's been a great opportunity for me to network with others in the college who are interested in online teaching and in using technology in their courses, and I'm definitely learning a lot about ways to improve some of our online courses. Dave and I will continue to meet with everyone and work with [these instructors] throughout the year as they put their hybrid courses together.
Also, Michelle continues to work on the video project, interviewing statistics educators whose work and writings are the underpinnings for the readings in EPsy 5271: Becoming a Teacher of Statistics. She has interviewed Allan Rossman and Beth Chance (conducting this interview when they were here for the CATALST workshop), and has been in contact with several other statistics educators about participating in this project. She hopes to begin those interviews early in the fall.

The group has been busy preparing to teach the CATALST course this Fall. The course website is up and available: http://www.tc.umn.edu/~zief0002/3264.htm. We have also reviewed and provided feedback on two instruments being used to measure students' understanding and reasoning about regression. Finally, Laura Le, a graduate student (seen in the JSM Dance Party picture in a previous post) reflects back on her very first JSM writing,
I loved it...My favorite part was was connecting with statisticians and other statistics education people. The only drawback (and it's minor) was the ovewhelming amount of talks going on at the conference. It was really hard to figure out what to go to. Although I didn't go to very many talks (Editors Note: This was our fault since we kept her quite busy in meetings for the CATALST grant.), the ones i went to were very interesting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Catalysts at JSM

Does this picture really
need a caption?
Whew! What a trip for the Catalyst team. Michelle Everson presented an invited paper on using online discussions for a session Rob Gould organized on the effective use of instructional technology. Bob delMas was super busy participating in an invited panel that Joan organized on starting a career in statistics education, organizing a topic contributed session on collaborative research in statistics education, chairing a session on Statway—an alternative pathway to a college credit-bearing statistics course for students who place in developmental mathematics; representing the statistics education section at the Statistics Education Booth (twice!), and being made a Fellow of the American Statistics Association. Congratulations Bob!

Michael Posner, Robin Lock, 
Joan Garfield and Leigh Slausen '
are "Stayin' Alive"
Over the course of the week we made great progress on the CATALST curriculum we will be implementing this fall. Allan Rossman, Beth Chance, George Cobb and Rob Gould met with us several times during the week to brainstorm and map out the progression of learning, as well as the activities, homework and assessments that we plan on using for Units 2 and 3 of the curriculum. (We hope to post a blog entry soon laying out our current thinking on these units!)

In between sessions, section and CAUSE business meetings, and long working meetings with Allan, Beth, Rob and George, we also still managed to get in some great meals. Joan went three for three on the choice of restaurants this year. The dinner conversations were stimulating, continuing the discussions started earlier in the day. Nick Horton and Danny Kaplan also joined us several times for dinner pushing us to think even harder about the projects we were working on. Overall an A++ conference.

Friday, July 30, 2010


The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching – MERLOT (www.merlot.org) Announces the 2010 MERLOT Awards for Exemplary Online Learning Resources

This program recognizes and promotes outstanding online resources designed to enhance teaching and learning. The award is granted to honor the authors and developers of these resources for their contributions to the academic community. Each of the MERLOT Editorial Boards selects an outstanding resource from its discipline to receive the MERLOT Classics Award. MERLOT considers this learning material an exemplary online learning resource and it is now recognized as so on the MERLOT website listing.

The winner of the 2010 MERLOT Statistics Classic Award is:
ARTIST (Assessment Resource Tools for Improving Statistical Thinking), authored by Joan Garfield of University of Minnesota http://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=84385
The Editor of the MERLOT Statistics Editorial Board has this to say about the Learning Material:

The ARTIST website makes a great contribution to the field of Statistics Education by including many assessment resources for instructors (such as an assessment builder with hundreds of questions about a variety of different topics, samples of authentic assessments such as project descriptions and article or graph critique assignments, and links to many other assessment resources such as papers about assessment and implementation issues related to assessment). This peer-reviewed resource continues to be used by many statistics instructors who are looking for ways to improve their assessments and better understand the ways in which their students are thinking and reasoning about statistics.

The winners of the 2010 Classics award were honored with a ceremony at the 2010 Emerging Technologies Symposium co-sponsored by MERLOT and the Sloan Consortium on July 21st in San Jose, California.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Catalyst Run at JSM

Calling all Catalysts for Change

We would like to invite all of you to the first (and perhaps last) Catalysts for Change 5k Jog and Jabber/Walk and Talk. Given the running vacancy associated with the cancelation of the Gertrude Cox scholarship run at this year's JSM, we have decided to host our own run. The event will not be timed nor will there be any race officials (or anything official about it). There will be, however, prizes awarded for the best use of cooking metaphors shared during the event, and post run treats will be provided.
  • Who: Catalysts for Change
  • When: Tuesday August 3, 2010 @ 6:30 AM
  • Why 6:30?: Because there is a session at 8:30
  • Where: Westin Grand, 433 Robson Street, Vancouver

You can add this event to your Google Calendar using the button below.

See you in Vancouver!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Statistics Instructors Lost in Cyberspace: A New Online Statistics Teaching Discussion Group


This group connects online statistics instructors and provides a place for them to share ideas and resources. It is a place where those of us who teach online can support one another, collaborate, and commiserate. Teaching online can pose many unique challenges and opportunities for the statistics instructor, and sometimes, it's nice to share these things with others who understand, and to get new ideas about the many things that can be done in the online statistics course. If you would like more information about this group, please contact Dr. Michelle Everson at gaddy001@umn.edu.

Yesterday was a busy day for the Catalyst team...

Work on developing new versions of the Statistics Teaching Inventory: Michelle met with Auja and Jiyoon to discuss ways to adapt the STI for online instruction.

Getting the CATALST course ready for fall semester: Joan worked with Rebekah and Laura to put together lesson plans; reformat activities and extensions; and find readings for Unit 1.

Preparing for the CAUSE Business Meeting at JSM: Andy met with Danny Kaplan to put together a prototype of a Google map for CAUSE.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The CATALST project is an NSF funded project is designed to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate a radically different but much needed introductory statistics course. The proposed course builds on best practices and materials developed in statistics education, research and theory from cognitive science, as well as materials and methods that are successfully achieving parallel goals in other disciplines (e.g., mathematics and engineering education) including the use of simulation to carry out inferential analyses. 

Research has suggested that students often leave statistics courses able to perform routine procedures and tests, but lacking the big picture of the statistical process that will allow them to solve unfamiliar problems and to articulate and apply their understanding. Inspired by a metaphor introduced by Alan Schoenfeld, we are hoping that the CATALST course will teach students to "cook" rather than just to "follow recipes”.

To read more about this project, or to access the materials created to date, please visit the CATALST website.

Catalyst Research Team

We are a collaborative research team of statistics education professionals who are striving to accelerate the change of content and pedagogy in introductory statistics. This blog is an avenue for us to make our work more visible. It is also a tool for other catalysts who wish to inspire us, collaborate with us, or simply follow our work.

In the academic year to come, we hope to update this blog regularly as our team works on various research projects we are involved with. In upcoming posts, we will introduce you to many of these projects, as well as the people involved with them. We welcome any feedback or comments about the blog, and the work we are doing. If you would prefer to email us rather than post a comment, the team email address is catalystsumn@gmail.com.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
                                                                                             –Margaret Mead