Mathematics, Statistics, and Teaching

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How does statistical thinking differ from mathematical thinking? What is the role of mathematics in statistics? If you purge statistics of its mathematical content, what intellectual substance remains? In what follows, we offer some answers to these questions and relate them to a sequence of examples that provide an overview of current statistical practice. Along the way, and especially toward the end, we point to some implications for the teaching of statistics.

Statistics is a methodological discipline. It exists not for itself but rather to offer to other fields of study a coherent set of ideas and tools for dealing with data. The need for such a discipline arises from the omnipresence of variability. Individuals vary. Repeated measurements on the same individual vary. In some circumstances, we want to find unusual individuals in an overwhelming mass of data. In others, the focus is on the variation of measurements. In yet others, we want to detect systematic effects against the background noise of individual variation. Statistics provides means for dealing with data that take into account the omnipresence of variability. Download free Mathematics, Statistics, and Teaching.pdf here

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