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It is often examples that make ideas understandable to students and current events can be a good source of examples. Case in point. Today in Wisconsin, the issue of the day is the outcome of the recall elections and problems with the exit polling. As a tutor, the outcome isn’t interesting, but exit polling like all surveys is key to the usefulness of statistics! In fact, it gives a great opportunity to illustrate some of the basic (and non-mathematical) ideas and concepts of statistics — usually the ideas presented at the beginning of most introduction-to-statistics courses. Statistical inferences are grounded in some basic definitions and assumptions (in bold). A population is a defined collection of individuals that we want to know some data about and a sample is a group taken from the population that we are going to actually collect data from (Sullivan, 2010, p. 5; Triola, 2010, p. 4). If we wanted to know the actual data about a population, which is called a parameter,... read more

For most people, solving a problem or a question is not difficult if they have a model to follow and the correct data to plug into the model. Take one of the most basic functions, paying for something at a cash register. If the cashier tells you the Happy Meal costs (with tax) $4.23, and you hand the cashier a $10.00 bill, I suspect that most cashiers will give and most people will expect their $5.77 in change. Oh, you can confuse people and make the problem more difficult (7 dimes, a nickel and two pennies, rather than 3 quarters and two pennies), but these are just "tricks." This works, because for the vast majority of people, this is an "ordinary" occurrence something we've either done or witnessed hundreds of times, and we can intuitively extend our addition and subtraction rules to a new problem. Unfortunately, most classroom topics are taught like the math example above using clear, intuitive, and easily understood examples, but tested using confusing... read more

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