Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Teaching category.

The challenge of fitting “good advice” into a coherent course on statistics

From an article I published in 2008: Let’s also not forget the benefit of the occasional dumb but fun example. For example, I came across the following passage in a New York Times article: “By the early 2000s, Whitestone was again filling up with young families eager to make homes for themselves on its quiet, […]

Everything that can be said can be said clearly.

The title as many may know, is a quote from Wittgenstein. It is one that has haunted me for many years. As a first year undergrad, I had mistakenly enrolled in a second year course that was almost entirely based on Wittgenstein’s  Tractatus. Alarmingly, the drop date had passed before I grasped I was supposed […]

Why we kept the trig in golf: Mathematical simplicity is not always the same as conceptual simplicity

Someone read the golf example and asked: You define the threshold angle as arcsin((R – r)/x), but shouldn’t it be arctan((R – r)/x) instead? Is it just that it does not matter with these small angles, where sine and tangent are about the same, or am I missing something? My reply: This sin vs tan […]

An example of a parallel dot plot: a great way to display many properties of a list of items

I often see articles that are full of long tables of numbers and it’s hard to see what’s going on, so then I’ll suggest parallel dot plots. But people don’t always know what I’m talking about, so here I’m sharing an example. Next time when I suggest a parallel dot plot, I can point people […]

“I just wanted to say that for the first time in three (4!?) years of efforts, I have a way to estimate my model. . . .”

After attending a Stan workshop given by Charles Margossian at McGill University, Chris Barrington-Leigh wrote: I just wanted to say that for the first time in three (4!?) years of efforts, I have a way to estimate my model. Your workshop helped me and pushed me to be persistent enough to code up my model. […]

Coding and drawing

Some people like coding and they like drawing too. What do they have in common? I like to code—I don’t looove it, but I like it ok and I do it a lot—but I find drawing to be very difficult. I can keep tinkering with my code to get it to look like whatever I […]

StanCon 2020 is on Thursday!

For all that registered for the conference, THANK YOU! We, the organizers, are truly moved by how global and inclusive the community has become. We are currently at 230 registrants from 33 countries. And 25 scholarships were provided to people in 12 countries. Please join us. Registration is $50. We have scholarships still available (more […]

Some questions from high school students about college and future careers

For a high school summer program I’m connected to, students have questions about careers. They’re mostly interested in technical careers (engineering, science, public health) and also some careers relating to arts, communication, and government service. Here are some of the questions the students are asking: What advice would you now give your younger self? What […]

“No one is going to force you to write badly. In the long run, you won’t even be rewarded for it. But, unfortunately, it is true that they’ll often let you get away with it.”

Basbøll says it well. Relatedly, see here. Writing is hard.

Further debate over mindset interventions

Warne Following up on this post, “Study finds ‘Growth Mindset’ intervention taking less than an hour raises grades for ninth graders,” commenter D points us to this post by Russell Warne that’s critical of research on growth mindset. Here’s Warne: Do you believe that how hard you work to learn something is more important than […]

Regression and Other Stories is available!

This will be, without a doubt, the most fun you’ll have ever had reading a statistics book. Also I think you’ll learn a few things reading it. I know that we learned a lot writing it. Regression and Other Stories started out as the first half of Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models, but […]

“Time Travel in the Brain”

Natalie Biderman and Daphna Shohamy wrote this science article for kids. Here’s the abstract: Do you believe in time travel? Every time we remember something from the past or imagine something that will happen in the future, we engage in mental time travel. Scientists discovered that, whether we mentally travel back into the past or […]

Embracing Variation and Accepting Uncertainty (my talk this Wed/Tues at a symposium on communicating uncertainty)

I’ll be speaking (virtually) at this conference in Australia on Wed 1 July (actually Tues 30 June in our time zone here): Embracing Variation and Accepting Uncertainty It is said that your most important collaborator is yourself in 6 months. Perhaps the best way to improve our communication of data uncertainty to others is to […]

Am I missing something here? This estimate seems off by several orders of magnitude!

A reporter writes: I’m writing about a new preprint by doctors at Stanford University and UCLA on relative COVID-19 risk, in which they assert the risk is much less than most people might think. One author in an interview compared it to the risk of food poisoning. It’s a preprint so it’s obviously not fully […]

“Banishing ‘Black/White Thinking’: A Trio of Teaching Tricks”

Richard Born writes: The practice of arbitrarily thresholding p values is not only deeply embedded in statistical practice, it is also congenial to the human mind. It is thus not sufficient to tell our students, “Don’t do this.” We must vividly show them why the practice is wrong and its effects detrimental to scientific progress. […]

BDA FREE (Bayesian Data Analysis now available online as pdf)

Our book, Bayesian Data Analysis, is now available for download for non-commercial purposes! You can find the link here, along with lots more stuff, including: • Aki Vehtari’s course material, including video lectures, slides, and his notes for most of the chapters • 77 best lines from my course • Data and code • Solutions […]

Career advice for a future statistician

Gary Ruiz writes: I am a first-year math major at the Los Angeles City College in California, and my long-term educational plans involve acquiring at least one graduate degree in applied math or statistics. I’m writing to ask whether you would offer any career advice to someone interested in future professional work in statistics. I […]

Online Causal Inference Seminar starts next Tues!

Dominik Rothenhäusler writes: We are delighted to announce the creation of the Online Causal Inference Seminar (OCIS)! Our goal in creating this seminar series is to provide a platform for our community to continue interacting and growing in spite of the current health crisis. The causal tent is a big one, and we hope to […]

Corona virus presentation by the Dutch CDC, also some thoughts on the audience for these sorts of presentations

Anne Pier Salverda writes: I’ve attached a corona virus presentation by the RIVM, the Dutch equivalent of the CDC. This briefing is happening as I send this email. The presentation is comprehensive and comprehensible, and it hits all the marks in the data visualization and communication department. Are you aware of any comparable presentations by […]

“Lessons from First Online Teaching Experience after COVID-19 Regulations”

Abdullah Aydogan, who teaches in the political science department here, wrote a short report of his recent online teaching experience: Here are four lessons I [Aydogan] derived from my first online education experience for my “Research Design: Data Analysis” course at Columbia University. To begin with, contrary to in-class education, it is extremely hard to […]