Dordt College News

Statistics professor awarded “best paper” in journal

September 7, 2012

Statistical arguments are increasingly used in our society. In this political season, we can’t watch the news without hearing about the latest political polls and what the numbers mean.

Dordt College Professor of Statistics Nathan Tintle believes that “for many people, statistical arguments remain unfamiliar at best, and misleading at worst.” He and fellow researchers from Hope College, California Polytechnic University, and Mt. Holyoke College have been creating a fundamentally different curriculum that they believe will contribute to a more statistically literate society. Changing the way statistics is taught “will have numerous benefits, not only for academics, but for the typical citizen who encounters statistical arguments daily in medicine, politics, finance, and consumer venues,” said Tintle.

Their approach was chronicled in an article they published in the American Statistics Association’s (ASA) Journal of Statistics Education. The paper, “Development and assessment of a preliminary randomization-based introductory statistics curriculum,” was recently awarded Best Paper of the year honors by the Journal at the ASA’s annual meeting in San Diego.

“I appreciate that more and more people nationwide are recognizing the benefits of our radical proposals for the teaching of statistics,” said Tintle of the recognition. “The issue is not that people use our materials, but that people embrace the changes we are proposing in an effort to improve students’ conceptual learning of statistical ideas.”

While an algebra-based approach is the most popular method in introductory statistics classes, the researchers looked for a more effective approach. Their randomization-based curriculum was implemented with 240 students in eight sections of introductory statistics in the fall 2009. These students “learned significantly more about statistical inference using the new curriculum, with comparable learning on most other questions,” says the paper’s abstract.

Since completing his Ph.D. in statistics in 2005, Tintle has mentored more than 40 undergraduate students conducting research in statistical genetics and biostatistics, and he currently serves as a committee member for the Section for Statistics Education of the ASA. Tintle joined the faculty at Dordt College in 2011 where he continues to carry out his research, develop curriculum, and grow new programs of study for the college including actuarial science and statistics.

“As Reformed Christians, we change and reform in an effort to continue unfolding God’s creation,” said Tintle. “I’m excited that our reforming efforts in statistics education are pushing us to continue finding ways to help Dordt College students discover the wonders of God’s creation, while assisting them in becoming Christian citizens who are appropriately supportive and critical of quantitative arguments in the world today.”

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