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Math in the 21st Century: Statistics for Career and Life

Carmen Sorge, csorge@unm.edu

Core: Mathematics

Course Description

Have you ever wondered why first the newspaper tells you that coffee prevents cancer, and the next day the headlines proclaim coffee will kill you? Are you aware that some stock fund statistics are technically true, but presented in a way designed to manipulate you? When a doctor tells you that a test for a disease is 99 percent accurate (and you just tested positive) what questions should you ask?

This course is designed to equip you with the statistical tools and knowledge to interpret and analytically analyze data. We will cover graphing techniques for presenting data, data sampling techniques, descriptive techniques, confidence intervals, regression toward the mean and central limit theory, basic probability, estimation and tests of significance as well as other topics. Mastering this material will provide you with the ability to interpret statistics related to public policy, education, business, and the social, health, and physical sciences. You will understand that statistics provides useful information for decision making but will also learn to recognize when the data is being manipulated in order to confuse or obscure the truth.

Understanding statistics allows you to make rational decisions in your own life and to think critically about potential outcomes. If you have taken the equivalent of College Algebra (Math 121) you certainly have the math skills for this class. If you have not taken an algebra class, please contact me before signing up.

Readings and Texts

Texts will include “Naked Statistics: stripping the dread from data” by Charles Wheelan "What is a p-value anyway? 34 Stories to Help You Actually Understand Statistics by Andrew J. Vickers" and the optional “The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics” by Grady Klein. We will also be reading provided selections from “Damned Lies and Statistics”by Joal Best and “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives” by Leonard Mlodinow as well as selections from other books, current journals and media. We will also be watching some shorter videos in class and you will watch a few longer documentaries online on your own, including the Joy of Stats.

Course Fee

$5. Consumables (We will test some preferences using foods)

Student Requirements

You will be learning basic statistics techniques and completing homework assignments demonstrating your mastery of these topics. Some of these assignments will include the collecting, interpreting and presenting of your own collected data.

You will write two major papers. The first paper will involve analyzing a research study for issues relating to data collection, ethical behavior, applicability and adherence to reasonable statistical methods. You will chose a research paper in your own area of interest with my help and approval. Your paper will address the validity of the results, the limitations of the study and any problems with good research you encounter with the method in which the study was conducted. The second paper will involve a critical analysis of previously published research and/or data of your own choice and collection. You may choose the topic based on your own interests or major. For example, an education major might want to investigate how NMPED is evaluating teachers or a health student might want to look into data about hormone replacement. You will create a presentation on your conclusions and present it to the class. 

You will be participating in hands on experiments in the classroom demonstrating statistics principles and writing up mini labs using the data.

You will also write a final short reflection paper at the conclusion of the class.

About the Instructor

I have taught both physics and mathematics from middle school level through college. I have a Ph.D in Educational Psychology, a M.S. in Science Education and a B.S. in Physics. But what should really matter to you is that I have experience in making math and science useful, exciting and interesting.