The year 2013 has been designated The International Year of Statistics. One of the core subjects that community college students have to pass to transfer to California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems is “Elementary Statistics.” For these students, the website of the 2013 Year of Statistics has been an eye-opener. They are finding the articles and observations by statisticians from around the world practical, inspiring and enormously helpful for pursuing a career in the statistics.
A Day in the Life of a Datamine Analystcaught the attention of several students, including John’s, Pamela’s and Osby’s. Pieta Brown’s daily tasks as a data analyst, working with team members on projects, brainstorming and creating hundreds of graphs for use by major corporations worldwide, showed that the use of statistics is not confined to baseball and football but has immediate applications in all types of businesses.The article that hooked students right away was What is Statistics? “We spend an entire semester learning about probability and confidence intervals but have hardly any clue as to what statistics is all about,” said Kevin. “This article really put things in perspective.” Agreed Victor: “I thought of statistics as just another stepping stone to where I wanted to be academically. I didn’t realize how much statistics affected my life. From agricultural forecast to making cities run smoothly and efficiently, statistics is everywhere. I am really going to study the subject seriously this semester.”
Sophia, Ruby, Nash, Lisa and others found the video clip on Why Statistics is Important revealing. They had no idea how diligent and meticulous statisticians have to be to gather and analyze unbiased data to draw reliable conclusions. They found it unnerving that there were many ways to collect inaccurate data that could lead to dangerous and damaging conclusions.
For Chang, the website is full of interesting and useful information. “I never knew how much statistics related to everyday life. We use statistics to predict trends, analyze past mistakes, detect shifts in customer behavior, and much more. Statistics is rarely black and white. Often there is no ‘right answer’ and you have to think carefully to create rules, logic and definitions. It is one of the reasons that why I find myself increasingly drawn to statistics.”
Several students benefited from the practical pointers offered in Should You Guess? “In some subjects, I get multiple-choice questions,” said Isaac. “The author clearly explained the probability of getting the right answers through random guessing. If there is no penalty in making a wrong guess, I should not hesitate to guess. But if there is a penalty for guessing wrong, then I should see if I can eliminate a few choices. The real solution is to have multiple correct answers in multiple-choice questions. That will certainly be an improvement.”
Subtleties in probability stump many beginning students in statistics. That’s why the cleverly-titled article Chances Are We All Get Probability made so many of them smile. “I agree that simply by changing raw probabilities into hard numbers will make things clearer,” said Monique. “The example of the probability of women having breast cancers with false positives was to the point. It’s all a matter of communication. As the article states, ‘chances are we do all get probability. It’s how it is explained and communicated that matters most. When it comes to worrying about having or not having serious conditions, it can make the difference between reassurance and added anxiety.”
In the same vein, Extrapolations Don’t Make Good Forecasts was a hit with students studying correlation and regression. “This article explained to me how banks and corporations can mislead you with specious information,” said Armando. “We need to become savvy customers by studying statistics so we do not become victims.” Added Nash, “What I read in the news about predictions and what really happen are two different things.”
For Nedim, Cecilia, Victor and other students, Statistics of the Day Archive continues to be a fascinating source of news and facts about various countries of the world. The literacy rate of youth aged 15-24 increased to 89 per cent in 2009, up from 83 per cent in 1990, reads one. “Hopefully,” says Nedim, “one day soon we will live in a world where every boy and girl will be literate.” Cecilia is taken by Jim Frost’s spirited defense of statistics, especially when he proves that statistics is not the problem but the solution!
The first thing about the website that struck a chord with Sophia was the plan to offer “trainings onStatistical packages for the community, presenting papers on different workshops, and creating awareness about statistics using different media.” “My parents emigrated from Ethiopia, so I hold Ethiopia near to my heart. It also impressed me to learn of so many countries using statistics to improve the lives of their people. Amazing!”
Roland was blown away by the wealth of information he found on What the Census Bureau Can Tell You about Some of the Communities Affected by Hurricane Sandy. “This article was intriguing to me in many ways. Hurricane Sandy was the most horrific natural disaster we witnessed since the Tsunami in Japan in 2011. At first, I questioned how the Census Bureau and Hurricane Sandy can have any correlation at all. But the article showed me the corelation. When a storm hits, the Census Bureau can quickly identify which region has the most elderly and disabled people so the government can mobilize its resources and evacuate them first. Using statistics, the Census Bureau can help the government respond to natural disaster quickly and with minimal loss of lives.”
Most students checked out the Statistics as a Career section. They were particularly interested in learning what fields employed statisticians, what the job characteristics were, and most importantly, how to become a statistician.
Based on the enthusiasm students displayed as they explored the Statistics2013 website, the probability is high that some of them will pursue a career in statistics. Put another way, if the Null Hypothesis states that student interest in statistics has not changed after exploring the website and the Alternative Hypothesis states that the interest has changed positively (with a large effect size), the resulting p-value turns out to be exceedingly small. In other words, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that student interest has significantly increased in statistics and that the website has succeeded in sowing the seed for some stellar careers in statistics.