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Letter to the Editor

1 November 2009 1,562 views No Comment

In reaction to Xiao-Li Meng’s article, “Statistics: Your Chance for Happiness (or Misery),” in the September issue, we very much appreciate and applaud his commitment to helping students understand and experience the excitement of statistics. But, we consider his criticism of AP Statistics as instilling students with a sense of boredom to be misdirected. Our impression of the impact of AP Statistics courses on student enthusiasm for our discipline is quite different than Dr. Meng’s. Contrary to his experience, we have encountered many students for whom their AP Statistics course was an extremely positive, even transforming, experience that led them to pursue further study and even a career in statistics. The number of undergraduate students at Cal Poly and the University of Georgia choosing statistics as a major or minor has steadily increased since the advent of AP Statistics, with many students attesting that their choice was based largely on their positive experience in AP Statistics. Similarly, the number of students enrolling in statistics courses at Kenyon College has increased substantially over this time as well, with many students citing AP Statistics as the reason for their interest.

One of the primary reasons that we university/college statistics faculty all became involved with the AP Statistics program (we have all served in the position of chief reader) is that we recognize how valuable this course can be in introducing high-school students to our profession. We believe that the curriculum for the course, designed with very careful deliberation by a team of university faculty and secondary teachers, does a good job of emphasizing statistical thinking and conveying the applicability and importance of statistical methods.

Moreover, our interactions with teachers of AP Statistics have convinced us that many of them display genuine excitement about our subject and have unquestionable dedication to it. These teachers work very hard and go to great lengths, often in very challenging circumstances, to inspire students to see how exciting our discipline can be. We believe that AP Statistics teachers are among the most creative and talented teachers of statistics, and they perform a great service to our profession.

Looking at more objective data, as reported in the May 2009 issue of Amstat News, the ASA and College Board collaborated to study the relationship between students’ exposure to AP Statistics and educational outcomes. Among the conclusions reported were that “taking the AP Statistics course and exam does appear to be related to greater interest in the statistical sciences” and that “the AP Statistics program seems to be successful in preparing students for further study and in increasing interest in statistics.”

Sincerely,

Allan Rossman and Roxy Peck, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Christine Franklin, University of Georgia
Brad Hartlaub, Kenyon College
Richard Scheaffer, University of Florida (Emeritus)

View Meng’s response here.

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