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?

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