Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two activities for a statistics course

Finding good activities in a statistics course is easy, if you have access to the Internet and all the data it contains! Both of these activities were enormously successful with my students; they found the research very easy to do and fascinating.


The U.S. interstate system takes remarkably straight paths between major cities: specifically, I believe that the true distance between two cities is, on average, only 6/7 of the interstate driving distance. Here's a statistical activity I made for my students:

If they do a decent sample size, say n = 25, they will almost certainly reject the null hypothesis I state in the problem.

A Wikipedia theory

A tip of the hat to XKCD. The theory is simple: On any Wikipedia page, click on the first link that is not in italics or in parentheses; repeat; you'll eventually end up on the philosophy page.

My students tested this out (n = 160 trials). They found that they did always end up on the philosophy page, with a mean of 16 links required (and s = 4.6). Neat.

Researchers found that the number of link steps between two topics indicates how strong or weak the connection is.

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