Is Statistics too darn hard?


In this NY Times article, Christopher Drew points out that many students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or fail to get any degree. He argues that this is partly due todo the difficulty of classes. In a previous post we lamented the anemic growth in math and statistics majors in comparison to other majors. I do not think we should make our classes easier just to keep these students. But we can certainly do a better job of motivating the material and teaching it more interesting. After having fun in high school science classes, students entering college are faced with the reality that the first college science classes can be abstract and technical. But in Statistics we certainly can be teaching the practical aspects first. Learning the abstractions is so much easier and enjoyable when you understand the practical problem behind the math. And in Statistics there is always a practical aspect behind the math. The statistics class I took in college was so dry and removed from reality that I can see why it would turn students away from the subject. So, if you are teaching undergrad (or grads) I highly recommend the Stat labs text book by Deb Nolan and Terry Speed that teaches Mathematical Statistics through applications. If you know of other good books please post in the comments? Also, if you know of similar books for other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects please share as well.

Related Pots: Jeff on “The 5 most critical statistical concepts”, Rafa on “The future of graduate education”, Jeff on “Graduate student data analysis inspired by a high-school teacher