Building Bridges
Science Education at Bryn Mawr College

Tri-College Math, Science & Technology
Teaching Symposium
May 6, 2003
Bryn Mawr College



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Quantitative Skills Tutorial


Save the equation for last

Steve C. Wang
Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Swarthmore College

Abstract: When introducing a new topic in an introductory statistics
course, it is common to begin by giving a formula and then explaining what
the formula measures and how it measures it. In this talk, I suggest that
it can sometimes be useful to save the formula for last. Instead, the
instructor can stress the concepts or intuition first, and only later give
a specific equation. I will demonstrate this approach by leading the
audience through a series of questions on the conditional standard
deviation in a simple linear regression setting. These questions would be
trivial to solve with a formula, but without the formula they encourage
students to think about the meaning of the conditional standard deviation
and how it relates to the marginal standard deviation.