Sunday, December 18, 2011

Interview with Joan Garfield!

The last issue of the Journal of Statistics Education brings an interview by Allan Rossman (California Polytechnic State University) with Joan Garfield.
Joan Garfield

  • How did Joan's love for statistics and education started? 
  • How was her experience when teaching statistics for the first time? 
  • What were the challenges encountered and overcome in creating a graduate program in statistics education? 
  • What is Joan' s advice for helping students to learn how to recognize and implement statistical thinking?

These and many more questions about Joan Garfield's life and career are answered in this interview available at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Catalysts for Change Published in SERJ!

The Statistics Education Research Journal (SERJ) has published the paper, Publishing in SERJ: An Analysis of Papers from 2002–2009. The paper was written by Catalysts for Change Andrew Zieffler, Joan Garfield, Robert DelMas, Laura Le, Rebekah Isaak, Audbjorg Bjornsdottir and Jiyoon Park. [Access the paper here.]

SERJ has provided a high quality professional publication venue for researchers in statistics education for close to a decade. This paper presents a review of the articles published to explore what they suggest about the field of statistics education, the researchers, the questions addressed, and the growing knowledge base on teaching and learning statistics. We present a detailed analysis of these articles in order to address the following questions: What is being published and why, who is publishing research in SERJ, how is the research being carried out, and what do the results suggest about future research?

Andrew Zieffler at the Deming Conference and University of Maryland!

On December 2, Andrew Zieffler will visit the University of Maryland and he will be presenting at the EDMS Measurement & Statistics Monday Symposia (MSMS). His talk will highlight a few of the computational tools, techniques and standards that research methodologists and data analysts would be well served to be familiar with including LaTeX, Sweave, XML, SQL, regular expressions, and data visualization tools. [Abstract for Andrew's talk.]

Dr. Andrew Zieffler and his old friends.
Andrew Zieffler's next presentation will be together with Jeffrey Harring at The 67th Deming Conference on Applied Statistics. They will do a workshop on randomization and bootstrap methods for making group comparisons. 

Topics of the workshop:
- Exploratory Data Analysis using Kernel Density Plots
- Randomization and Bootstrap tests
- Effect Sizes and Bootstrap Intervals

Thursday, November 17, 2011

CATALST's colleagues update!

A great article about a fellow Catalyst for Change, Chris Franklin was posted on Columns (The Online Newspaper For The University of Georgia Community)!
The article can be seen at:

Robert Gould has a newly published book: "INTRODUCTORY STATISTICS -  Exploring the World through Data."
Book details on

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Statistics Education Seminar presented by Xiao-Li Meng!

Xiao-Li Meng (Department of Statistics, Harvard University) gave a talk last Friday, October 28, at the QME Colloquia Series at the University of Minnesota.

Professor Meng and his "Happy Team" on the opening day of Stat 105.
Cassandra Wolos, Kari Lock, Xiao-Li Meng, Yves Chretien, and Paul Edlefsen.
Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office.

Title: Statistical Education and Educating Statisticians: Producing Wine Connoisseurs and Master Winemakers

Abstract: The distinction between statistical education and educating statisticians is of particular importance at the pre-graduate school level. In recent years we have taken a broader view of statistical education for Harvard’s undergraduates, by shifting the focus  from preparing a few to pursue Ph.D. level quantitative studies to helping many  gain a basic appreciation of statistical argument and insight,  as a part of their liberal arts critical thinking training and experience.  Intriguingly, the journey, guided by the philosophy that one can become a wine connoisseur without ever knowing how to make wine, apparently has led us to produce many more future winemakers than when we focused only on producing a vintage.  At the Ph.D. level, our focus has always been to produce the best winemakers, to take the wine analogy further, but true expert winemakers need to master far more than merely the chemical process of fermenting juice into alcohol, especially with ever increasing competition and demand.  We therefore introduced a Professional Development Curriculum (PDC) parallel to the usual course curriculum, starting  from “Stat 303: The Art and Practice of Teaching Statistics,” a required one-year course for all entering Ph.D.s, aiming at both producing well trained teaching fellows for undergraduate courses and effective statistical communicators in general.  This talk shares a number of stories from our intoxicating journey and experiments, including a Riesling randomized trial conducted for Stat 105: Real-Life Statistics: Your Chance for Happiness (or Misery) to assess the single most influential  factor in students’ ability to judge wine quality (once they are over 21).


Catalysts for Change to Host SRTL-8 in 2013!

The International Research Forum on Statistical Reasoning, Thinking, and Literacy 2011 (SRTL-7) included SEVEN members of the CATALST Team! Joan, Bob, Andy, Rob, Herle, Jen and Aaron. The next SRTL (2013) will be hosted by the CATALST team here in Minnesota!  

Statistics Education educators and researchers playing in the sand.
SRTL-7 was described shortly in IASE Matters:

From 17 to 23 July 2011, the seventh biennial Forum of the International Collaboration for Research on Statistical Reasoning, Thinking and Literacy (SRTL-7) took place on Texel Island in The Netherlands. The Freudenthal Institute for Science and Mathematics Education of the Utrecht University hosted this SRTL-7. During the Forum, a small group of worldwide Statistics Education educators and researchers presented and discussed research on the theme: “New approaches to developing reasoning about samples and sampling in informal statistical inference”.

The Forum was structured with long presentations (90 min.), short presentations (30 min.), and whole and small group discussions, organized by thematic clusters focusing on Primary school, Middle school, Secondary education, Tertiary education, and Teacher education.

Inspired and exhausted by the intensive scientific and social programs, the participants went home full of new ideas. Like in previous SRTL forums, joint publications (an edited book and a journal special issue) are planned to publish the results of SRTL-7.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CATALST at the Mathematical Association of America (MAA)!

Last Saturday, October 22nd, Jim Albert gave a contributed talk "Teaching Statistical Thinking" at the Fall Meeting of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), Ohio Section, at the University of Findlay.

My talk gave a general motivation and introduction to the CATALST program, brief descriptions of a few of the MEA's, and some comments on my experience using the curriculum.
Some slides from Jim's talk!

The abstract of Jim's paper and all the other activities for the Fall Meeting of the Mathematical Association of America, Ohio Section, can be viewed at:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Next challenge: CATALST ONLINE! ... by Michelle Everson

This semester, I have been sitting in on the CATALST course in order to determine how to best create an online version of this course. I will teach one of the first completely online CATALST courses in the spring of 2012, and I’m very excited about it!

Two of our other CATALST implementers—Sabrina Ripp (from Tulsa Community College) and Terri Pigott (from Loyola University Chicago)—will also be teaching a fully online CATALST course in the spring. On a regular basis, Sabrina, Terri, and I—along with Rebekah Isaak—have conference calls via Skype to plan for the online course. Although we all teach on the semester system, we’ve discovered that we do not all use the same classroom management systems (two of us will likely use Blackboard and one will use Moodle), nor will we be designing our courses for the same audiences. Sabrina will be working with students who attend a two-year college, I will be working with upper-level undergraduate students at a four-year university, and Terri will be teaching graduate students (some of whom may not even be in the country). It will be interesting, therefore, to compare our courses once they are underway in order to determine if the ways we have chosen to structure the online learning environment will work effectively in different settings, with different types of students.

Picture from
So far, our discussions have focused mostly on the assignments and activities that are a part of Unit 1. We are trying to determine how we can best orient our students to the online environment and make sure they begin working on the course as soon as the semester begins. We are also thinking about how to best implement discussion activities in the online environment. A great thing about the classroom-version of the CATALST course is that there is always a lot of rich discussion and activity going on. We would like—as best as possible—to replicate this in the online environment, but we’re not quite sure yet how to do this. Ideally, we’d like for the students to be able to engage in some synchronous discussion and even share computer screens as they work through activities that involve using Tinkerplots, but we need to figure out what kind of software will allow us to easily do this and how to handle the kind of technical problems that tend to arise when such tools are used in online courses. We have talked about possibly using tools like Wimba or Adobe Connect for some synchronous discussion. Another thing we have frequently discussed is just how many assignments we should be collecting from students each week, and when we should collect these assignments. The online course can be more reading and writing for students than a typical classroom-based course, and we want to make sure the workload is manageable for our students.

Sabrina was able to visit us recently and see the CATALST course in action, and Terri is now planning to visit us in late November. We will keep you updated on our progress!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meet Elizabeth Fry!

Hi! My name is Elizabeth Fry, but a lot of people call me Liz. I’m a brand new student in the statistics education PhD program at the University of Minnesota. I was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico, and when I finished high school, I moved to the U.S. to start college at Valparaiso University in Indiana, where I majored in math and French. By my senior year, I knew that I enjoyed statistics and was interested in teaching, but needed a little break from school–so after graduation, I spent a year doing Lutheran Volunteer Corps, where I worked with youth in Chicago. 

From Mexico to Minnesota, welcome Liz!
After that year, I got married to my husband Matt, and we moved to Columbus, Ohio, where I started graduate school in statistics at The Ohio State University (OSU). While I was at OSU, I was a statistics TA for a year, and I also pursued a Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization in College and University Teaching (yes, that’s a mouthful, but we also call it GIST for short). As part of the GIST, I was mentored by Dr. Jackie Miller, who introduced me to research in statistics education–who knew that there was a discipline that combined my interests in statistics and teaching so perfectly? And who knew there was a whole PhD program in it? After leaving Ohio State with my Masters in Statistics, I taught introductory statistics at Columbus State Community College for a year, applied and got in to the statistics education PhD program, and now here I am in Minneapolis, Minnesota! I’m excited to be in a new Midwestern state!

This semester I am taking three classes:  EPSY 5221 (Principles of Educational & Psychological Measurement), EPSY 5244 (Survey Design, Sampling, & Implementation), and EPSY 5247 (Qualitative Methods in Educational Psychology). I’m also a research assistant for the e-ATLAS (Evaluation and Assessment of Teaching and Learning about Statistics) project. I am looking forward to learning a lot this semester and advancing in my career as a statistics educator!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Catalysts for Change Blog: New Features

The Catalysts for Change Blog has recently undergone some changes of its own.

  • Follow by Email: This will send an email to you when the blog has been updated! To make use of this feature, enter your email address in the "Follow by Email" subscription field (on the right-side of the page)

  • Publications Page: This page lists the recent (and some not-so-recent) publications by the Catalysts for Change. We have also added links to any of the publications that are available online.

  • Presentations Page: On this page, we have added the presentations that have been made by the Catalysts for Change. These are in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent. We have linked to PDFs of the slides from some of these presentations.

    Welcome, CATALST Implementers!

    The following statistics instructors are coming from all over the United States to visit the University of Minnesota this fall. Their goal is to see the CATALST course in action and to gain some insight for when they teach their own version of the CATALST course.

    Jennifer Noll            September 7th and September 8th
    Joe Nowakowski     September 12th and September 13th
    Jim Albert                September 20th
    Sheila Weaver         September 28th and September 29th
    Dean Nelson           October 6th
    Sabrina Ripp           October 10th and October 11th
    Terri Pigott               Late Fall

    During their time in Minneapolis, they will be able to see how CATALST classes really work by observing some of them in person and experiencing their unique and vibrant atmosphere. The University of Minnesota instructors they will be observing are Andrew Zieffler, Laura Le, Rebekah Isaak and Laura Ziegler. The implementers will have a chance to chat with these instructors as well as with Joan Garfield and Robert delMas if they have questions related to teaching methods and the CATALIST curriculum. In addition to conversations about how the CATALST group does things, there will be plenty of opportunity for discussions on how the implementers can use and adapt the CATALST materials in their own teaching.

    Jennifer Noll and Robert delMas discuss the finer details of learning to cook...I mean eat.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Meet Anelise Sabbag!

    Hi everyone!

    I hope I can stay with that smile until the end of the program!
    My name is Anelise Sabbag and I am an international master's student from Brazil. I arrived here in Minneapolis 4 weeks ago and I am still getting used to my new life style here in the U.S. Like most Brazilians I have never seen snow but I hope with God’s help and the right clothes I can survive Minnesota’s winter!

    My undergraduate degree was in Statistics at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil and as soon as I started studying I was gently forced to teach my friend’s daughter who was having a hard time in math and physics at school. That was my first step towards teaching and I ended up loving it! I worked as an instructor in reinforcement schools and autonomously for eight years, tutoring mostly high school students.  

    Once I was done with my undergraduate degree it was time to work in the area, but after a short experience as a professional in statistics I realized that teaching was much more rewarding and fun than any other profession.  Being a teacher is the first step to change the world and make a difference! As an instructor you can interact directly with students, help them overcome subject barriers and show them the real meaning of numbers and graphics! On the other hand working as a statistician usually means interacting with the screen of your computer for loooong hours!

    So on one hand I had statistics and on the other education…what to do now?  Well, the best solution I came up with was looking for a master's degree that could combine those two areas of interest. By that time, I found out about the master's degree in Quantitative Methods in Education at the University of Minnesota. The perfect mix! Now that I started this program, I just need to successfully complete it in order to become a competent professor of statistics!

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Southbeach, Bringin' the Heat...

    Rebekah, Michelle and Laura Z. sample
    the Miami nightlife.

    Laura Z., Rebekah and Michelle resample
    the Miami nightlife.

    Laura Z. uses an acronymic title in her talk...she
    must be in statistics education!

    Michelle receives the Waller Award. (video)

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    End of Summer

    Dani Ben-Zvi and Joan Garfield at SRTL-7.
    Here we are in mid-August already. Just a quick update on some of what has happened with the Catalysts for Change this summer.

    • Andy, Bob, and Joan presented some interview data from the CATALST course at SRTL-7.
    • Rebekah gave a talk entitled The Course as Textbook during an invited session at JSM in Miami.
    • Laura Z. gave a talk entitled CART in CATALST during an invited session at JSM in Miami.
    • Michelle Everson organized and was a panelist in a session at JSM called Teaching Statistics in an Online Environment:  Challenges and Opportunities. She also was a panelist in another session (that Amy Froelich organized) called Outstanding Innovations in Statistics Education:  Past, Present, and a Glimpse at the Future. If that wasn't enough, Michelle also led a roundtable discussion on Becoming a Teacher of Statistics, and went to the JSE Business Meeting, the Stat Ed Business Meeting (and two Executive Committee meetings before that), as well as the CAUSE Activists meeting. (Whew!)
    We have also been working hard at getting the CATALST course ready for the fall semester. We have several implementers from institutions all over the country getting ready to implement CATALST this upcoming fall.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    AP Stat Reading, CAUSE Webinar and a New Book

    Auja Bjornsdottir, Jiyoon Park, Michelle Everson, and Laura Ziegler participated in the A.P. Statistics reading in June. All except Laura were Acorns and the rumor is that they didn't take part in a skit. For more information about the A.P. Statistics course, visit the College Board website [Click Here]. You can also find out more about the A.P. reading at the following:

    Rebekah Isaak, Laura Le, and Laura Ziegler also gave a webinar for CAUSE on the CATALST course in June. 

    This webinar provides an overview of the research foundations of a radically different introductory statistics course: the CATALST course. This course teaches students the skills they need in order to truly cook with statistics, not just the procedures they need in order to follow a statistical recipe. In addition to the research foundations of the course, we will describe unique aspects of this course as well as details of a one-year teaching experiment to learn how this course can be taught and its impact on student learning.

    You can view the webinar, Create an Iron Chef in statistics classes?, on CAUSEweb.

    Lastly, Springer has recently published the book Teaching Statistics in School Mathematics–Challenges for Teaching and Teacher Education. The book, which was edited by Carmen Batanero, Gail Burrill, and Chris Reading, is the product of a joint collaboration between the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) and the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE). It is also a product of the 2008 IASE Roundtable Conference. Joan Garfield and Chris Franklin co-authored a chapter in the book. The book, which is also available through Amazon [click here], is described on the Springer website as follows:

    In recent years, there have been an expansion and renewal of the statistics content in the mathematics curricula in many countries through all school grade levels from primary to secondary levels. However, no similar attention has been paid to the preparation of mathematics teacher to teach statistics at these levels. This book presents the results from the Joint ICMI/IASE Study, Teaching Statistics in School Mathematics. Challenges for Teaching and Teacher Education that was  intended to address the lack of attention  to teaching statistics by promoting international collaborative  research specifically focussed on the education and professional development of teachers to teach statistics.The volume covers a very wide field, including examples of statistics curricula and teacher education programmes around the world; analysis of the fundamentals to teaching statistics;  survey chapters of research related to teachers’ attitudes, beliefs and knowledge related to fundamental statistics ideas and its teaching; and analyses of challenges and experiences related to training teachers to teach statistics. The book is designed to be useful to researchers in mathematics education and statistics education teacher educators,  and people involved in curricular development in statistics with the hope that it will foster further research in the problems related to educating teachers to teach statistics at different school levels. It could be of interest to teachers themselves, since the basic ideas for teaching statistics and the research summarised  in the book both in learning difficulties or teaching strategies is applicable in both the training of students and teachers.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    USCOTS 2011 Pictures

    Catalysts for Change all in one spot at the same time (almost!)
    From left: Joan Garfield, Laura Le, Elizabeth, Michelle Everson, Rebekah Isaak, Audbjorg Bjornsdottir, Laura Ziegler, Jiyoon Park, Matt Beckman, Bob delMas, and Andy Zieffler

    Bob delMas admires a slide during his plenary talk.

    All of the CAUSE Lifetime Achievement award winners.
    From left: Roxy Peck, Dick Scheaffer, Joan Garfield, and George Cobb

    Bob delMas explains some of the finer points of qualitative research.

    Michelle Everson explains "it is twitter...not tweeter".

    USCOTS 2011

    Adeline ponders the "next big thing".
    The 4th United States Conference on Teaching Statistics was held May 19-21 in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Once again, Catalysts for Change were busy throughout the conference. Here is just an overview of some of the things that we participated in:

    Whew! I'm sure I missed some things, but those are the highlights. Pics to be posted soon.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Last Stat Chat of the 2010/2011 Academic Year

    The last Stat Chat of the 2010/2011 academic year is set for Tuesday April 21, 2011. Stat Chat is an informal, but informative, monthly get-together of local statistics educators. We meet in room 205 of the Olin-Rice Science Center at Macalester College [See Map].

    The agenda for this Stat Chat is as follows:

    • 6:00 - 6:30, Dinner and presentation of two draft posters for USCOTS
    • 6:30 - 7:00, Journal Club: The Math-Stats Course (Laura Chihara)
    • 7:00 - 8:00, Main Event: Statistical Literacy Update Updates on recent work and a preview of USCOTS (Milo Schield and Marc Isaacson)
    During this month's journal club, we will discuss the math stats course including, what the goals of a math stats course should be, and the topics that are essential to this course. To guide the discussion, consider the table of contents from these two books:

    In the first part of the main discussion, Milo Schield will discuss Models and Assumptions: Statistics and Assembly. Checking assumptions is a critical activity in modeling. Often times the assumptions used in analyzing data influence — if not determine — the results. Milo will discuss an ISI draft paper that argues that statistics have the same status as models — they involve choices in assembly that influence — if not determine — the results. One of the five elements of the AACU 2009 Quantitative Literacy Rubric was assumptions:
    Ability to make and evaluate important assumptions in estimation, modeling, and data analysis.
    The ISI paper extends this focus on assumptions to include the formation of categories, measures and summary statistics. While statistics may have little to say about which assumptions are best, statistical literacy can highlight how choices in how groups are defined or how quantities are measured can influence the results.

    In the second part of the main event, Marc Isaacson will present the USCOTS Theater-teaching activity: Multiple choice Olympic Success. This activity incorporates audience involvement to evaluate data from Olympic Competition results through the use of rankings. While rankings are commonly encountered by students in their everyday life, they are rarely discussed in an introductory statistics class. Audience members will be presented a handout, a single question and then asked to respond via text message or smartphone. Results will be collected via the internet and discussed instantaneously with an interesting twist.

    Lastly, Milo Schield will present the USCOTS Theater-teaching activity: Where do Statistics come from? This activity incorporates audience involvement to compare related rates or percentages. Central question: Where do statistics come from; how are they assembled; what difference do their definitions make in their size or in the size of their association?

    PLEASE RSVP to Danny Kaplan so that we can plan sensibly for dinner. As always, last-minute deciders and guests are welcome.

      Monday, April 18, 2011

      CATALST Presentation at NCTM Research Presession

      Zieffler presents on CATALST. On
      the screen is Robin Lock, Joan Garfield
      and Robert delMas.
      Andrew Zieffler recently presented at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Research Presession in Indianapolis, IN. The presentation, entitled It Takes a Village to Effect Change: The CATALST Course Teaching Experiment [PDF version of the slides], documents a two-semester teaching experiment currently being undertaken as part of the NSF-funded CATALST grant (DUE-0814433).

      Zieffler presented this work in an invited session, Research in Statistics Education: Current Efforts and Future Directions, organized by James Tarr (University of Missouri). Other participants in the session included Randall E. Groth (Salisbury University), Sandra Madden (University of Massachusetts Amherst), and Tim Jacobbe (University of Florida). The session also included two discussants, Hollylynne Stohl Lee (North Carolina State University), and Rich Lehrer (Vanderbilt University).

      For more information related to the CATALST grant:
      • Download the slides of the NCTM presentation [PDF]
      • Visit the CATALST website [Website]

      Monday, April 11, 2011

      Michelle Everson Receives Waller Award

      Michelle Everson
      Michelle Everson, lecturer in the Department of Educational Psychology, has received the 2011 American Statistical Association Waller Education Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to and innovation in the teaching of elementary statistics. Nominees for the Waller must be early in their career, with 10 or fewer years of full-time teaching and responsibility for teaching the first course in statistics in a two- or four-year college, or research university. The award will be presented to Everson at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Miami Beach this summer.

      Congratulations Michelle!

      Statistics Education Paper Published in JRSS

      The Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series A) has published a statistic education paper written by Chris Wild, Maxine Pfannkuch, Matt Regan and Nick Horton. The paper is being made available for free by Wiley for a limited time period. [Access the paper here.]

      The paper is titled Towards More Accessible Conceptions of Statistical Inference and includes discussions by John MacInnes, Peter Holmes, Adrian Bowman, Jim Ridgway, John Pullinger, James Nicholson, Thomas King and Clare M. Woodford, Julian Stander and Rana Moyeed, Ramesh Kapadia, Alan Agresti, Janet Ainley and Dave Pratt, Murray Aitken, Adrian Baddeley, Manfred Borovcnik, Mike Camden, Len Cook, Neville Davies, N. I. Fisher, Joan Garfield and Andrew Zieffler, Andrew Gelman, Harvey Goldstein, Robert Gould, Sander Greenland, Paul Hewson, Kuldeep Kumar, D. V. Lindley, Thomas A. Louis, Helen MacGillivray, Xiao-Li Meng, Deborah Nolan, Sastry Pantula and Ron Wasserstein, Emanuel Parzen, Brian Pink, J.-F. Plante and N. Reid, Donald B. Rubin, Richard L. Scheaffer, Milo Schield, Michael Stuart, and Dennis Trewin.

      Thursday, March 24, 2011

      Robin Lock to Visit UMN and Present at Stat Chat

      Robin asks the perennial question...
      Robin Lock from St. Lawrence University will be visiting the University of Minnesota in the upcoming week. He will also be presenting at Stat Chat on Tuesday March 29, 2011. Stat Chat is an informal, but informative, monthly get-together of local statistics educators. We meet in room 205 of the Olin-Rice Science Center at Macalester College [See Map].

      The agenda for this Stat Chat is as follows:

      • 6:00 - 6:30, Dinner
      • 6:30 - 7:00, Journal Club: Situation Normal --- from Alex Bellos's book, Here's Looking at Euclid (Sharon Mosgrove)
      • 7:00 - 8:00, Main Event: Starting Inference with Bootstraps and Randomizations (Robin Lock)
      Abstract for Robin's Talk
      Computer-intensive methods such as bootstrapping and randomization tests provide a way to introduce students to fundamental ideas of statistical inference that require relatively few prerequisites. I'll discuss an ongoing project to revamp an introductory course to use such methods as the starting point for inference.

      PLEASE RSVP to Danny Kaplan so that we can plan sensibly for dinner. As always, last-minute deciders and guests are welcome.

        Wednesday, March 23, 2011

        Stat Chat (Follow-Up)

        On Tuesday February 22, 2011 the Catalysts for Change presented the CATALST curriculum at the monthly Stat Chat meeting. After a rousing dinner, Stat Chatters were invited to take part in an activity that not only gave them an opportunity to witness first-hand how the course is taught, but also introduced them to the metaphor of cooking that has become ubiquitous with the CATALST curriculum.

        After that activity, a brief overview of the entire course was shown. The activities and student homeworks for Unit 1 were given a more thorough examination. Within this part of the presentation, TinkerPlots was also demonstrated for the participants. Stat Chatters were also given a cursory look at Unit 2 and methods of introducing the randomization and bootstrap tests were revealed.

        The slides used can be obtained here. [PDF]

        Wednesday, March 16, 2011

        Catalysts in Japan: Part II

        Bob is wearing a tie...or is
        it Photoshop?
        Joan and Bob gave three invited presentations in Tokyo, Japan, as guests of Rikkyo University and The University of Tokyo. On March 5, 2011 they presented Using Activity-Based Instruction to Develop Students' Understanding of Statistics at the Japanese Conference on Teaching Statistics. On March 6, 2011 they presented Assessing Important Learning Outcomes for a First Course in Statistics at the annual meeting of the Japanese Statistical Society. On March 8, 2011 they gave three talks about their NSF-funded work in statistics education to the faculty affiliated with the Center for Statistics and Information (CSI) of Rikkyo University. Despite the earthquakes which occurred as their flight home was boarding, they arrived safely home after an interesting and enjoyable week in Japan.

        Tuesday, February 15, 2011

        Catalysts to Present at February Stat Chat

        The spring session of Stat Chat continues on Tuesday February 22, 2011. Stat Chat is an informal, but informative, monthly get-together of local statistics educators. We meet in room 205 of the Olin-Rice Science Center at Macalester College [See Map].

        The agenda for this Stat Chat is as follows:

        • 6:00 - 6:30, Dinner (and warm up activity to introduce the CATALST philosophy)
        • 6:30 - 7:00, Journal ClubThe Introductory Statistics Course: A Ptolemaic Curriculum?
        • 7:00 - 8:00, Main Event: The CATALST Course (Joan Garfield, Robert delMas, Laura Le, Rebekah Isaak, Laura Ziegler, Andy Zieffler)

        During this month's journal club (see below), we will discuss George Cobb's paper The Introductory Statistics Course: A Ptolemaic Curriculum? This paper was the inspiration for the CATALST course, which will be the topic of this month's main event. CATALST is an NSF-funded project that has created a curriculum designed to develop students’ statistical thinking and appreciation of statistics through a focus on modeling, simulation and inference. The CATALST curriculum is currently being taught in several sections of undergraduate-level statistics at the University of Minnesota and at North Carolina State.

        We will share an overview of the curriculum, as well as a sample of class activities used in the course. Specifically, an activity used to introduce the randomization test for group inferences will be shared. The software TinkerPlots™, which is used by students in the course to conduct the modeling and simulation, will also be demonstrated.

        PLEASE RSVP to Danny Kaplan so that we can plan sensibly for dinner. As always, last-minute deciders and guests are welcome.

        Journal Club

        Journal club was introduced at Stat Chat during the 2009-2010 academic year as a venue for discussing articles, books, etc. with other statistics educators. The following online resources are provided for this month's discussion of The Introductory Statistics Course: A Ptolemaic Curriculum?
        • The Introductory Statistics Course: A Ptolemaic Curriculum? by George Cobb [Read Article]

        Some discussion questions:

        •  In the article, George posits that randomization-based inference deserves to be at the core of every introductory course. Do you agree? Why or why not?
        • If someone decides to teach using randomization methods, is it necessary to still teach classical methods (e.g., the t-test) in addition to randomization methods? Or can these be introduced as an aside?
        • George argues that technology has freed us to simplify our curriculum. Is this true? Or has it merely shifted the focus? Has it in fact made things more complex because we now have an obligation to teach computing as well?
        • What should the balance be between teaching statistics and teaching computing?

        Thursday, February 10, 2011


        From Seth Godin's blog
        Self sufficiency appears to be a worthy goal, but it's now impossible if you want to actually get anything done. All our productivity, leverage and insight comes from being part of a community, not apart from it. The goal, I think, is to figure out how to become more dependent, not less. 

        Catalysts in Japan

        Sunday, February 6, 2011

        Seeking Adventurous Statistics Teachers

        The NSF-funded CATALST (Change Agents for Teaching and Learning Statistics) project is looking for a few courageous statistics instructors willing to adapt and implement a radically different introductory statistics course. Based on ideas put forth by George Cobb in his 2005 USCOTS plenary talk and his 2007 TISE paper, a unique course has been created to develop students’ statistical thinking and appreciation of statistics.

        What is unique about this course? Rather than teaching students to follow recipes, the curriculum engages students in the process of statistical thinking that allows them to really cook. By keeping the focus of the curriculum exclusively on modeling and simulation the emphasis from the first day in the course is kept on key statistical ideas such as the importance of data collection methods, variation under uncertainty (random sampling vs. random assignment), the ideas of null and alternative models, and a deep understanding of the process statistical inference.

        Students are introduced to randomization and bootstrap methods to help draw inferences. The curriculum includes content for inferences regarding means and proportions and for both one- and two-sample comparisons. Students conduct all of the modeling and simulation–including the randomization and bootstrap methods–using the TinkerPlots software.

         Because the course uses technology to carry out these simulations, many concepts can be understood from empirical evidence, with less reliance on mathematical theory and computing rules. As a result, some traditional topics such as computing areas under the normal curve, z-scores, and the Central Limit Theorem are less necessary, and have been removed to make more time for concepts at the core of inference.

        This course is currently being piloted at both the University of Minnesota and North Carolina State University. We are looking for people who want to become CATALST collaborators by adapting and using this course in one of the following settings:

        1. A statistics course for pre-service teachers
        2. A freshman seminar
        3. A statistical or quantitative literacy course
        4. A basic introductory statistics course
        5. An introductory course for students in the sciences
        6. An online class
        7. A course that enrolls large numbers of students

        What we have to offer: Some stipends to reward you for taking the time to work on adapting and implementing this course, the opportunity to collaborate with an enthusiastic team of statistics educators, the opportunity to create a unique version of the CATALST course that others may use, and the opportunity to collect meaningful data that help you (and us) see how well your students are learning to think statistically and understand the big ideas of statistical inference.

        Are you interested? Would you like to join our collaboration? Would you be willing and able to adapt and teach this course next year? Would you be willing to come to a pre-USCOTS meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina (Thursday May 19, 1:30-3:30) to meet with the CATALST team?

        If so, please contact Joan Garfield to express your interest. We can share with you our current course outline, syllabus and activities. We are looking for people to keep the bulk of the course intact, but perhaps collapse the second and third unit into one unit and add additional material if needed.

        Be sure to check out the CATALST project at:

        Sunday, January 23, 2011

        Words vs. Real Change

        As leaders in statistics education continue to inspire us to change our teaching and assessment methods, push ahead in letting go of old content, and incorporate new technological tools in the classroom, Seth Godin, the author of Tribes, reminds us that
        It's a lot easier for an organization to adopt new words than it is to actually change anything. Real change is uncomfortable. If it's not feeling that way, you've probably just adopted new words.
        "Assessment for learning", "bootstrapping", and "cooperative-learning" are only a part of the rhetoric until we embrace these ideas in the classroom. Sometimes making these changes seems like they are beyond difficult, and they can certainly be time-consuming in terms of preparation. But the end result is awe-inspiring.

        Wednesday, January 19, 2011

        Stat Chat Set to Resume January 25

        The spring session of Stat Chat begins on Tuesday January 25, 2011. Stat Chat is an informal, but informative, monthly get-together of local statistics educators. We meet in room 205 of the Olin-Rice Science Center at Macalester College [See Map].

        The agenda for this Stat Chat is as follows:

        • 6:00 - 6:30, Dinner
        • 6:30 - 7:00, Journal Club: Proofiness (Victor Addona and Paul Alper)
        • 7:00 - 7:10, Announcement: The upcoming USCOTS conference.
          7:10 - 8:00, Main Event: Team-based Learning (Katie St Clair)

        During this month's journal club (see below), we will discuss the book Proofiness: The Dark Art of Mathematical Deception, by Charles Seife (a mathematically trained journalist/science writer). During the main event, Katie St Clair will discuss team-based learning (TBL), a pedagogical strategy that involves groups of students working together in teams to learn and apply the course concepts. She will give an overview of TBL principles and talk about how TBL has been used in a statistics literacy class at Carleton College.

        PLEASE RSVP to Danny Kaplan so that we can plan sensibly for dinner. As always, last-minute deciders and guests are welcome.

        Journal Club

        Journal club was introduced at Stat Chat during the 2009-2010 academic year as a venue for discussing articles, books, etc. with other statistics educators. The following online resources are provided for this month's discussion of Proofiness: The Dark Art of Mathematical Deception. Briefly, "proofiness" is defined as
        the art of using bogus mathematical arguments to prove something that you know in your heart is true - even when it's not. 
        The New York Times published a short (2-page) excerpt from the book on their website in September [Read Except] and an interview with author Charles Seife in October [Read Interview]. The book has received overwhelmingly favorable reviews. Here is a brief list of some of those reviews:

        • Chance News [Read Review]
        • Steven Strogatz, Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University [Read Review]
        • John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics, Temple University (also the author of Innumeracy, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, and Irreligion[Read Review]

        Some discussion questions:

        • Drawing upon the above links, and/or any of your experiences as teachers of statistics, which do you feel are the most effective/ineffective examples of proofiness, and why?
        • Is there a place for proofiness (the concept), and/or Proofiness (the book) in an introductory statistics (or a quantitative reasoning) class?
        • Do you have any reservations about using portions of this book as assigned reading in a course?

        Tuesday, January 18, 2011

        Wiley to Publish Book on Randomization and Bootstrap Methods

        Andy Zieffler has recently finished the writing of a manuscript for John Wiley & Sons called  Comparing Groups: Randomization and Bootstrap Methods Using R. It was intended as a graduate-level statistics textbook for courses offered in social science programs. The content provides the statistical foundation for researchers interested in answering questions about group differences through the introduction and application of current statistical methods made possible through computation—including the use of Monte Carlo simulation, bootstrapping, and randomization tests. Rather than focus on mathematical calculations like so many other introductory texts in the behavioral sciences, the approach taken in this monograph is to focus on conceptual explanations and the use of statistical computing. We agree with the sentiments of David Moore, who stated,
        calculating sums of squares by hand does not increase understanding; it merely numbs the mind.
        At the heart of every chapter there is an emphasis on the direct link between research questions and data analysis. Purposeful attention is paid to the integration of design, statistical methodology and computation to propose answers to research questions based on appropriate analysis and interpretation of quantitative data. Practical suggestions for analysis and the presentation of results based on suggestions from the \textit{APA Publication Manual} are also included. These suggestions are intended to help researchers clearly communicate the results of a data analysis to their audience.

        Perhaps the best writing in the book will be in the Foreword, which George Cobb was gracious enough to write (even after reading the book). You can check out the non-existent, generic fill-in cover image at Amazon (where Joan pointed out that it is $40 cheaper than on Wiley's site.)

        The cover I wanted for the book is the picture shown. This is a work from Jason Salavon based on MTV's 6th Greatest Music Video of All Time, the Guns 'N Roses classic...Sweet Child of Mine. According to Jason's website,
        Each of the videos in the top 10 of this list were digitized in their entirety and the individual frames were simplified to their mean average color, eliminating overt content. These solid-colored squares were then arranged in their original sequence and are read left-to-right, top-to-bottom.

        Sunday, January 16, 2011

        Randomness and Pseudorandomness

        For all of you podcast listeners, Melvin Bragg and his guests recently discussed ideas of randomness and pseudorandomness on the BBC program In Our Time. It was an interesting piece, especially given the fact that the sections of the CATALST course at the University of Minnesota start tomorrow with the iPod Shuffle MEA.

        Randomness is the mathematics of the unpredictable. Dice and roulette wheels produce random numbers: those which are unpredictable and display no pattern. But mathematicians also talk of 'pseudorandom' numbers - those which appear to be random but are not.

        In the last century random numbers have become enormously useful to statisticians, computer scientists and cryptographers. But true randomness is difficult to find, and mathematicians have devised many ingenious solutions to harness or simulate it. These range from the Premium Bonds computer ERNIE (whose name stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment) to new methods involving quantum physics.

        Digital computers are incapable of behaving in a truly random fashion - so instead mathematicians have taught them how to harness pseudorandomness. This technique is used daily by weather forecasters, statisticians, and computer chip designers - and it's thanks to pseudorandomness that secure credit card transactions are possible.

        Friday, January 7, 2011

        It's a Catalyst Caption Contest

        We need captions for the following two photographs. Bonus points for including statistical jokes or cooking metaphors. Send your winning entries to by January 20. The winning caption will be forever enshrined upon the blog.

        Joint Mathematics Meeting Poster Session

        Catalysts for Change were prevalent at the 2011 Joint Mathematics Meeting Poster Session.

        Rebekah is taller than the Project MOSAIC poster. when she wears heels.

        Auja and Rebekah listen intently as Joan no doubt expresses a new cooking metaphor.
        Two Catalysts for Change on the Project MOSAIC poster – R and Princess Park.

        Tuesday, January 4, 2011

        Catalysts at JMM

        The Catalyst team is getting ready for an action packed trip to New Orleans for the Joint Mathematics Meetings. On the agenda are several talks, posters, and meetings. Here is just a smattering:


        • CATALST Implementers Meeting (Friday January 7, 2011, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.; Saturday January 8, 2011, 8:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.; Evergreen Room, 4th floor Sheraton)
        • CATALST PI Meeting (Saturday January 8, 2011, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.)
        • SIGMAA Officers Meeting (Friday January 7, 2011, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; La Galerie 6, 2nd Floor, Marriott)
        • SIGMAA Statistics Education Business Meeting and Reception – (Friday January 7, 2011, 5:45 p.m.-7:15 p.m.; La Galerie 6, 2nd Floor, Marriott)
        See you all in New Orleans!