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This is the preliminary program for the 2007 Joint Statistical Meetings in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Activity Number: 385
Type: Contributed
Date/Time: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 : 8:30 AM to 10:20 AM
Sponsor: Section on Statistical Education
Abstract - #310077
Title: Discovering the Underlying Themes of Statistical Models
Author(s): Steve Wang*+
Companies: Swarthmore College
Address: 500 College Ave, Swarthmore, PA, 19081,
Keywords: education ; teaching ; model ; uniform distribution ; paleontology ; learning activity

Statisticians are fond of models, but communicating this abstract concept to introductory students can be challenging. Here I describe a class lecture and activity designed to help students understand how a statistical model represents (and necessarily simplifies) reality. In class, I present three examples that at first seem unrelated. The first is the familiar "Nazi tank" activity, in which students try to devise estimators for the number of tanks possessed by the Germans in World War II. Next, I present an activity in which students estimate how many people are in the classroom. Finally, I present an example from my own research on estimating the extinction time of fossil species. I challenge students to find the common theme in these apparently unrelated examples, thereby leading them to discover the idea of a statistical model through active learning.

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Revised September, 2007