The Department for Education and Employment has designated next year as
Maths Year 2000 and is arranging activities to bring mathematics (including
statistics) to a wider audience as well as having major initiatives in
schools. On behalf of the RSS Centre for Statistical Education I have agreed
to put in some statistical input and I would very much like all the help
Allstat members can give with ideas, content, contacts and presence on the
days if at all possible.
One major initiative is a series of 6 Mathsfests to take place in different
regions of the country.
The first is in Oxford on 29 January; others are in Plymouth/Exeter (April),
Manchester/Liverpool (May), Nottingham (July), York (October) and London
The aim of these appears to be to give all and sundry an opportunity to do
some mathematics and see what mathematics can do (maths in this context
They expect anything between one and two thousand people to come to these
one-day events, and this will include members of the general public, not
just teachers, pupils and those generally connected with education. I
offered to give input at each of these from the RSS Centre.
The organisers are keen that we should involve those attending in activities
and not just have passive displays for them to read, so currently my
thoughts are under two major headings: Activities and Displays.
1. A computer version of the Monty Hall problem under the title 'Stick or
Switch'. The participants can choose whether to stick or switch the boxes
they have chosen once they have been shown an empty box. They can then draw
up a running table and chart of successes by those who chose to stick and
those who chose to switch. I would like to have genuine small prizes to
give out to those who do win. (e.g. a ball point pen suitably engraved). Can
anyone suggest a possible sponsor for these prizes.
2. A computer version of a variant of the game described in Teaching
Statistics by Trevor Smart under the title of 'The BioSS Challenge'. This is
essentially a sampling game - the participants choose what they think is a
typical sample, the computer chooses a random sample and the means compared
with each other and the underlying mean. The provisional title is 'Beat the
computer'; the context is the diameters of jellyfish all 100 of which are
drawn on an A4 piece of paper. Again there will be running displays of the
distribution of estimates by the individuals, the computer and of the
underlying distribution of the diameters of the jelly fish.
3. Finding the answer to sensitive questions - using the principle of the
contrary statement. Participants throw a dice so that no-one can see the
result and say true or false to one of two statements. If they throw a 1 or
2 it is statement A; 3, 4, 5, or 6 it is statement B. Statement A is 'I have
smoked marijuana'; statement B is 'I have not smoked marijuana). We can have
a running total of yes's or no's and a continuing update of the estimate of
the proportion of people who have smoked marijuana. A poster will explain
the underlying probability logic.
4. Any other ideas from Allstat members please.
Here is where I really need help with ideas, content and contacts. I am
thinking of four major areas: Statistics at Work, Statistics at Play,
Statistics in Everyday Life and Statistics in the Local Area.
Statistics at Work.
Subheadings to this are (i) in industry (ii) in business and commerce (iii)
in medicine and health (iv) as a career. I am looking for examples rather
than a full exposition of what can be done under these headings; and the
examples should be easily understandable by the general public and be in
areas that they would find interesting
Statistics at Play
This will include gambling, National Lottery. Use of statistics in sport. I
have not done much work or thinking yet in this area.
Statistics in Everyday Life
The main focus of this will be a sub-head 'Statistics in the News' where I
intend to take a broadsheet and a tabloid newspaper for one day and pull out
all the items which have used to statistics and attach a short comment.
Another part of this section is 'Popularising Statistics' and I have asked
Robert Matthews if we can use some of his articles from the Sunday Telegraph
where he has popularised the use of statistics.
A third section is on 'Misuse of Statistics'. Here I am
thinking of things more substantial than appear in 'Forsooth', though some
of those could be used. Any examples that any of you have
would be greatly appreciated. (Has anyone made a speciality of this)?
Somewhere in this section I want to make sure the idea of risk and insurance
Statistics in the Local Area
Clearly there is a lot of work in statistics going on in the local areas.
Obvious places are the universities. I shall be writing to the RSS local
organisers to see what we can get under this heading.
As I said at the beginning - any help anyone can give in terms of
ideas, content, contacts and presence will be greatly appreciated.
RSS Centre for Statistical Education
Department of Mathematics, Statistics and OR
Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK
email: [log in to unmask]
Tel: (+44) 0115 848 4478
Fax: (+44) 0115 848 2998