Subject: The Introductory Statistics Course: A New Approach

Date: 16 May 1996 02:33:31 GMT

From: Don Macnaughton <>


Two former presidents of the American Statistical Association have stated that "students frequently view statistics as the worst course taken in college" (Hogg 1991, Iman 1994). A third former president has stated that the field of statistics is in a "crisis", and the subject has become "irrelevant to much of scientific enquiry" (Box 1995). Many statisticians reluctantly agree with these remarks.

On the other hand, many statisticians will agree that the field of statistics is a fundamental tool of the scientific method. Many will also agree that the scientific method plays a vital role in modern society. Thus rather than being a worst course, and possibly irrelevant, the introductory statistics course ought to be a friendly introduction to the simplicity, beauty, and truth of the scientific method.

With that goal in mind, I have developed and tested a new approach to the introductory statistics course. The approach is based on the concepts of predicting and controlling the values of variables. These concepts are important because they pervade science, and because they provide a broad and deep foundation upon which a teacher can build the field of statistics.

Abstracts and papers describing the approach are available at

Donald B. Macnaughton   MatStat Research Consulting Inc.      Toronto, Canada


Box, G. E. P. (1995), "Scientific Statistics - The Way Ahead (abstract)," 1995 Abstracts: Summaries of Papers Presented at the Joint Statistical Meetings, Alexandria, VA: American Statistical Association, p. 38.

Hogg, R. V. (1991), "Statistical Education: Improvements Are Badly Needed," The American Statistician, 45, 342-343.

Iman, R. L. (1994), "The Importance of Undergraduate Statistics," Amstat News, Number 215, December 1994, p. 6.