Teach Statistics Before Calculus? An interesting idea by Arthur Benjamin

January 4, 2013

(This article was originally published at The Analysis Factor, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

I don’t usually get into discussions here about the teaching of statistics, as that’s not really the point of this blog.

Even so, I found this idea fascinating, and since this blog is about learning statistics, I thought you may find it interesting as well.

The following is a TED talk by Arthur Benjamin, who is a math professor at Harvey Mudd College.  Let me start by saying he is awesome.  I already watched his Mathemagician TED talk with my kids*, so when I found this, I already expected it to be very good.

I wasn’t disappointed.

*if you too are on an active campaign to instill a love of math in your kids, I highly recommend it.

Here are two of my favorite quotes, keeping in mind that I took calculus in high school and I LOVED it.  Even so, he’s got some really good points:

“Very few people actually use calculus in a conscious, meaningful way in their day-to-day lives.  On the other hand, statistics–that’s a subject that you could, and should, use on a daily basis.”

“If it’s taught properly, it can be a lot of FUN. I mean, probability and statistics–it’s the mathematics of games and gambling, it’s…it’s analyzing trends, it’s predicting the future.”

If you find the video isn’t working, you can watch it directly on the TED site (the is the first time I’ve embedded a video). :)


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