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Instructor: Robert Winters 
Course web site:  

Office and Phone: SCI 352, x3495
Office Hrs: Tues and Fri 12:30 - 2:00 and by appt.
TA: Wenao Wang

This course focuses on understanding how statistics are used and misused in a variety of fields, including the social sciences, medicine, and the physical sciences. It is intended to be accessible to students who have not yet had calculus and to satisfy the Quantitative Reasoning Overlay Requirement. If you have taken Math 116 or the equivalent, then you may not take 101 except by permission of the instructor. Math 220 is more appropriate than 101 and also satisfies this requirement. You may not take 101 if you have also taken or are taking QR 180, QR 199, or PSYC 205, because of their similarity to this course.

Statistical concepts and questions are all around us. For example:

  • The news media regularly conduct polls on national and local issues, and on political candidates. Often only a few hundred people are polled. How reliable are the results of these polls?
  • A drug manufacturer has been testing a new product to combat the effects of stroke. The company reports that 52% of the subjects fared better after taking the drug. Is this enough evidence to conclude that the drug is effective, or is more information needed to analyze the drugs effectiveness?
  • Some SAT and GRE prep courses advertise that they guarantee to improve your score. But scores tend to improve if you take the test even without a prep course. How can you determine if it is worthwhile to take a prep course?
  • Women who are HIV-positive may give birth to HIV-positive babies. Would giving HIV tests to all men and women who apply for marriage licenses be an effective way of reducing the rate at which babies are born with HIV?

After taking this course, you should be able to answer questions like these and follow and analyze statistical arguments about data that you find in courses or in the media (i.e., be "statistically literate"). You should be able to understand where the fundamental formulas and tests of statistics come from and what they mean. You should be able to apply basic statistical tests that are common to several disciplines, and be prepared to learn any additional statistical methods you will need for specific courses in the future.

You will carry out simple computations in the course by hand or with a calculator, and more involved ones with computer software. There will be ample opportunities to help you learn to use the software for calculations and to visualize the basic ideas of statistics and probability. There will also be a final project in which you will be collecting and interpreting your own data.

Course requirements (this may be adjusted slightly):

60%  3 hour exams
Your lowest exam grade will only count half as much as the others.
20%  Final project
Project to be done working in small groups. You will choose a question to investigate, gather the necessary data, analyze the data using computer software, and write a paper describing your conclusions. The groups will present their work in oral reports to the whole class.
20%  Homework this will include exercises from the text and the use of the ActivStats software, Excel spreadsheets, and data files either posted on the course web site or downloaded from public sites.
Textbook exercises will typically be checked and corrected but not graded.

Homework assignments, solutions, data files, and course supplements will be distributed electronically and not on paper. All course materials will be posted or linked on the course web site and accessible via a First Class course conference. Its a good idea to subscribe to the conference so that it is on your FirstClass desktop and to bookmark the course website.

As in any math course, the best way to learn the material is to participate in class and do the assignments regularly. I encourage you to work together, but what you hand in should be your own calculations and in your own words. If youre not sure what collaboration is permissible, please check with me. You can use the course conference to ask questions and exchange ideas. Ill use the conference to answer questions that many students seem to have.

Another resource for you is the Math Help Room (362SCI). If you need help with the concepts or techniques of the course, if youre stuck on the homework, etc., you can go to the Help Room and ask one of the teaching assistants (TAs) there. The TA designated for this course will know the most about your assignment and Ill announce her Help Room schedule, but other TAs may be able to help you depending on the courses theyve taken. The Help Room is also a good place to do homework with others.

If you need additional help, please be sure to see me during office hours, or else talk to me after class to make an appointment. A good way to contact me is by email.

One key to doing well is to read the textbook; dont just use it for finding examples that are similar to the homework questions. If you read the text, it will give you another way to look at the concepts of the course as well help you do the homework and prepare for the exams. You can also borrow other books that explain statistics in different ways. Some are on the shelves just outside the Help Room and others are in the Science Library. You may also find the ActivStats CD to be a very helpful guide to many topics in the course.

A word of advice: The material for the first exam is less technical than what comes later, and students are often lulled into a false sense of security by it. You should be aware that starting at around Chapter 4 or 5 of the text, the course may require more effort.

Statistics is a cumulative subject, and it is difficult to absorb lots of math in a short period. If you fall behind it will be difficult to catch up and do well. I try to set up rules that will encourage learning, and that means being somewhat strict about deadlines.

You will be expected to hand in your work on time. Late homework will not generally be accepted, except in unusual circumstances. Extensions for the project or exams may be given only if permission is requested before the due date, or for unusual circumstances beyond your control. However, please dont hesitate to talk to me if you believe your circumstances merit an extension. Please let me know if you need special arrangements with any aspect of the course because of religious observances or disabilities.

Text: David S. Moore and George P. McCabe, Introduction to the Practice of Statistics, 4th ed., Freeman, 2003. Earlier editions will not have the right homework questions and examples.

Software: ActivStats with Excel, Addison-Wesley Longman.

This software works on both Macintosh and Windows computers. A new 2003-04 copy will work on all recent versions of Windows, and on Mac OS 10.2 and 9.2. A used 2002-03 copy will work with all recent versions of Windows and Mac OS 9. The 2001-02 version is probably OK but there may be some differences in content. There are versions of ActivStats that are not designed to work with Excel, and these are not suitable.

You will be learning to use this software as part of the course. You can use it on the Colleges computers and, if you also have Excel, on your own computer. A limited number of copies of the book and software will be on reserve at the Science Library. The software also provides a guided walk through much of what youll need to know for this course and does so in a very accessible way. If you are using the software on different computers, youll need to bring the CD and a floppy disk (if you want to keep your student file up to date).

You will occasionally need a calculator that can compute square roots. It will be convenient but not required to have one that includes statistical functions such as the mean and standard deviation. There are inexpensive models that cost about $10-$15.

The course will be based on the following chapters in the text. Specific reading and homework assignments will be posted in the Calendar on the course website.

Chapter Title Topics discussed Chapter
Looking at Data: Distributions visualizing data, summarizing data numerically, normal curve Chapter 1
Looking at Data: Relationships comparing data visually, correlation, regression, causation Chapter 2
Producing Data experimental design, sampling Chapter 3
Probability: The Study of Randomness probability models, random variables Chapter 4
Sampling Distributions counts, proportions, binomial distribution, central limit theorem Chapter 5
Introduction to Inference confidence intervals, significance testing, abuse of tests Chapter 6
Inference for Distributions inference for the mean, comparing two means Chapter 7
Inference for Proportions inference for a single proportion, comparing two proportions Chapter 8
Analysis of Two-Way Tables data analysis and inference for two categorical variables Chapter 9
Other topics as time permits