Mathematics Department Seminar – Why People Trust Statistics 12/7/11

The Grand Rapids Community College Mathematics Department will be hosting its next monthly Mathematics Seminar on Wednesday, December 7, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. in 108 Cook. Our speaker will be GRCC Adjunct Mathematics Instructor Steve Harris.

This talk should appeal to anyone with knowledge of or an interest in Statistics, or who are simply curious about fundamental ideas in Statistics. As always, anyone from the greater GRCC community is welcome.

Pop and cookies will be served at 2:45 p.m.

Why People Trust Statistics

Many students in an introductory Statistics course sail along fine until “Distribution of a Sample Mean” sinks their boat. After failing to find an illustration that explained the concept in a way I could use with both math-oriented and non-math-oriented students, I built my own. The result is an Excel spreadsheet that visually demonstrates the power of the Central Limit Theorem.

By changing any of these variables – population range, population size, sample size, number of samples – you can watch the conclusion of the Central Limit Theorem develop before your eyes. This little app has proven quite useful in helping students understand why we’re willing to make significant decisions based on a small amount of sample data, and reinforces why the Central Limit Theorem indeed is central in the field of Statistics.

The picture below is a summary view of what you will see, but the real power of the illustration lies in watching the samples actually being culled from a population and seeing the “mean of the means” change in real time.

Why People Trust Statistics

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