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Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks

Andrew Gelman and Deborah Nolan
Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Rebecca Conley
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The second edition of Teaching Statistics contains five new chapters and several new or updated sections. This review will focus on the new material, since the excellent review of the first edition is still applicable for the older material. Four of the five new chapters are more relevant to teaching advanced courses than introductory level courses.

The incorporation of graphics in teaching statistics is prominent in much of the new material. The new chapter about statistical graphics (chapter 4) contains project ideas and teaching suggestions about statistical graphs in an introductory level class, including the utilization of statistical software for creating graphs. The new chapter on statistical communication and graphics (chapter 16) and the new chapter on teaching data science (chapter 21) contain graphical assignments for more advanced courses.

The new chapter about teaching statistics to social scientists (chapter 14) discusses teaching Bayesian statistics to non-statisticians, gives a plan for the first four lectures of an applied regression course, and contains an interesting discussion about teaching style. Chapter 16 presents an outline for a 13-week graduate-level course in statistical communication. This nicely complements the outline for teaching an introductory level statistic course from the first edition. Chapter 21 is about statistical thinking in a data science course, and it includes goals, topics, and projects for a data science class.

One new assignment that I find particularly noteworthy is the statistical diaries (chapter 15). Students are required to write an entry in their statistical diary each day for two weeks. The entries can be anything statistical, including daily experiences that make them think of statistics, questions that could be answered using statistics, or statistical problems that they are working on. The diaries of eighteen students are included in the book. It made for some interesting reading, and provided some insight into how students perceive statistics and its importance in their lives.

I strongly recommend Teaching Statistics to anyone teaching statistics. The second edition contains new and exciting ideas, especially for more advanced classes. This book is well-written, informative, and very useful.

Rebecca Conley is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Saint Peter's University in Jersey City, NJ

1. Introduction
Introductory probability and statistics
2. First week of class
3. Descriptive statistics
4. Statistical graphics
5. Linear regression and correlation
6. Data collection
7. Statistical literacy and the news media
8. Probability
9. Statistical inference
10. Multiple regression and nonlinear models
11. Lying with statistics
Putting it all together
12. How to do it
13. Structuring an introductory statistics course
14. Teaching statistics to social scientists
15. Statistics diaries
16. A course in statistical communication and graphics
More advanced courses
17. Decision theory and Bayesian statistics
18. Student activities in survey sampling
19. Problems and projects in probability
20. Directed projects in a mathematical statistics course
21. Statistical thinking in a data science course