Many paths lead to statistical inference: Should teaching it focus on elementary approaches or reflect this multiplicity?

For statistics education, a key question is how to design learning paths to statistical inference that are elementary enough that the learners can understand the concepts and that are rich enough to develop the full complexity of statistical inference later on. There are two ways to approach this problem: One is to restrict the complexity. Informal Inference considers a reduced situation and refers to resampling methods, which may be completely outsourced to computing power. The other is to find informal ways to explore situations of statistical inference, also supported with the graphing and simulating facilities of computers. The latter orientates towards the full complexity of statistical inference though it tries to reduce it for the early learning encoun-ters. We argue for the informal-ways approach as it connects to Bayesian methods of inference and allows for a full concept of probability in comparison to the Informal Inference, which reduces probability to a mere frequentist concept and – based on this – restricts inference to a few special cases. We also develop a didactic framework for our analysis, which includes the approach of Tamás Varga.

Subject Classification: 97K10, 97K70, 97K50, 97D20

Interdisciplinary Secondary-School Workshop: Physics and Statistics

The paper describes a teaching unit of four hours with talented students aged 15-18. The workshop was designed as a problem-based sequence of tasks and was intended to deal with judging dice whether they are regular or loaded. We first introduced the students to the physics of free rotations of rigid bodies to develop the physics background of rolling dice. The highlight of this part was to recognise that cubes made from homogeneous material are the optimal form for six-sided objects leading to equal probabilities of the single faces. Experiments with all five regular bodies would lead to similar results; nevertheless, in our experiments we focused on regular cubes. This reinsures that the participants have their own experience with the context. Then, we studied rolling dice from the probabilistic point of view and – step-by-step – by extending tasks and simulations, we introduced the idea of the chi-squared test interactively with the students. The physics and the statistics part of the paper are largely independent and can be also be read separately. The success of the statistics part is best described by the fact that the students recognised that in some cases of loaded dice, it is easier to detect that property and in other cases one would need many data to make a decision with small error probabilities. A physical examination of the dice under inspection can lead to a quick and correct decision. Yet, such a physical check may fail for some reason. However, a statistical test will always lead to reasonable decision, but may require a large database. Furthermore, especially for smaller datasets, balancing the risk of different types of errors remains a key issue, which is a characteristic feature of statistical testing.

Subject Classification: F90, K90, M50, R30