The End of an Era (hopefully).

I am doing something new tech-wise in my senior Stats class, I am going to assume the kids have a laptop.  If they do not have one they are going to have to get one, even if it is a loaner from the school. I am also going to stop using the TI calculator as the primary device for the Stats class.  I am not going to teach with the TI or show the kids how to use it. “Why” you may ask? Because to the best of my knowledge the TI is not used by anyone actually using statistics. I am not a statistician and I do not know any but I have a suspicion that I am not making a giant deductive leap here.  So I am going with Google Sheets. Why not Microsoft Excel? Google Sheets is free and all the kids have access to it. Google Sheels has evolved a long way in the last few years. It actually better than Excel for doing charts.

I have used the TI-84 as the device of choice in this class for years. The book I use has the “how to” for the TI-84 and Excel.  The TI has all the functions are right there and output is simple to understand. There is no denying it, it is a great teaching tool.  But stats should be more than just a classroom event. If the students are going to be able to use and understand real world stats they have to use real world tools, i.e. spreadsheets.  I know there is software out there that is designed for managing data (the book uses MiniTab) but there is an availability and ease of use issue. Google Sheets is available and Google will have a lot on how to use it.  Since I am more used to Excel we are going to need that help.

This may get a bit tricky.  Most of the problems in the book give only the statistics, not the data.  If finding something like the confidence interval the TI works just fine with inputting the statistics.  The spreadsheet not so much. I may have to generate or find a bunch of simple data sets to use in class.  Something to ponder.

I think the most entertaining aspect of this change is going to be the student reaction.  For some strange reason high school students seem to hate spreadsheets. “I do not know how and do not want to learn how” is a regular thread.  Personally I am too lazy to not use spreadsheets. When I started teaching in ‘82 it took me almost no time to figure out having my grades in VisiCalc was much easier than a paper gradebook.  I love them. Heck, at one time I could actually build VBA programs for Excel. Now that was cool (and just a bit geeky).

I have been lock into using TIs since they first became available.  Greatest thing since the slide rule. Weaning me off of them is not going to be trivial.  I am comfortable with the TI, I know most of its quirks and I can make it do most of what I want to do.  But it is time to grow up and move on.

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6 Responses to “The End of an Era (hopefully).”

  1. Andreas Siebel Says:

    I agree with you that if students are to learn Real World statistics, they must also use Real World Tools.

    But I don’t think google sheets is the right tool.

    By using or teaching software we also create the digital world of tomorrow. I think we should teach students to use alternatives to Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon as much as possible so that we create a world where the power of an enlightened population lies and not in the hands of a few key players.

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

    • gflint Says:

      What would be an alternative tool that is free and has lots of resources?

    • Mike Zamansky Says:

      For many people a spreadsheet is the right tool. Tons of professionals use them for basic stats all the time. Maybe not heavy duty stat people but lots of working professionals

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        It is unfortunately true that spreadsheets are very commonly used, and so students should be taught how to use them. Unfortunately, the graphics tools packaged with spreadsheets are some of the worst in existence (worse than pencil and paper even, as they are designed for hiding lack of data rather than revealing patterns in data), so different graphing tools should definitely be taught.

        I favor gnuplot for non-programmers, and matplotlib for those who can program, but R is ok if you are willing to change all the very badly chosen defaults.

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I agree that no one uses the TI calculators after high school, but I’m not fond of spreadsheets either—they are simply too easy to mess up on large data sets. I prefer using Python for doing any statistics I need, though I admit that the heavy-duty statisticians prefer to use R.

  3. Mike Zamansky Says:

    I was never a fan of calculators in math class. It wasn’t really so hard to make the numbers work out for tests. Also not a fan of how TI became pretty much the official calculator of HS math and has this wonderful cash cow as public schools frequently have to provide for their kids at taxpayer expense while computers and phones are better and in many cases already available.

    I love the idea of using a spreadsheet or of simple programming instead.

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