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Innovations in Teaching Statistics

Mathematical Association of America
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 Innovations in Teaching Statistics (MAA Notes #65), edited by Joan Garfield, is a summary of current ideas and trends in statistical education.  This text is a compilation of stories from fourteen prominent statisticians who are known for their dedication to statistical education.  They describe steps that have been taken to improve and enhance the experiences of students in the introductory statistics course — a course which has grown in enrollment dramatically over the past 25 years.

The teachers of statistics profiled in the text come from several different types of institutions.  These institutions include schools where statistics is taught within a mathematics department (as is often the case at small colleges), larger schools that have their own separate statistics department, two-year and community colleges, and schools in which statistics in taught within non-quantitative departments but not within a mathematics or statistics department.  The experiences of the statistics instructor are different within each of these settings. 

Innovative ways in handling each different set of challenges are described by each instructor.  They describe how they came to be teachers of statistics, the specific goals of the introductory course that they teach, and give sample activities that they have found to be useful.  They also take a "snapshot" of a typical class and illustrate how they utilize these activities given the constraints that each of them faces.  They conclude with discussions of assessment methods that they have found to be helpful, and with challenges that they are continuing to work to address.

The collection of essays provides valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of a variety of introductory statistics classes.  It is often difficult for the new instructor to conjure up new and attention-grabbing activities to motivate students.  This makes the book a valuable resource for any new (or seasoned) teacher of such courses, since it provides many good examples of activities for those who wish to implement them. Innovative ways to elicit student feedback in courses are also given to help gauge how well the material is being conveyed.

Graduate students who are considering careers in teaching will also find this book helpful since it does an excellent job describing the types of challenges that need to be overcome in order to be an effective teacher at the introductory level.  Those who do not teach statistics themselves will learn a great deal from this book about the barriers that statistics instructors must overcome, and the tools that others have found to be effective in overcoming them.

In short, this text should be valuable to anyone wishing to learn more about current innovative methods in teaching statistics, as well as future directions in which those at the forefront of statistical education are headed.

Liam O'Brien is assistant professor of statistics at Colby College.

Date Received: 
Sunday, May 1, 2005
Include In BLL Rating: 
Joan B. Garfield, editor
MAA Notes 65
Publication Date: 
Liam O'Brien
Publish Book: 
Modify Date: 
Thursday, September 16, 2010