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Can You Smell Parkinson's Disease?

Chapter 1 - Day 1

Here we gooooooo! (Does anyone else hear N’sync playing in the background when they read that? No, just me? Cool.) Anyways, here we go! Day 1 of AP Stats. We’ve got 150 days to get these students ready for the AP test. This year we’re doing things a little different than we have in the past. This revolves around our focus on having students “Experience First, Formalize Later.” Our goal for the year is that for every lesson students will begin experiencing statistics through an activity that will require little to no teacher input. After working through this, we will go back through and formalize their learning with vocabulary and formulas, etc. We did this two years ago when we piloted an Intro Stats class. It went so well we felt we had to do it for AP Stats also. We know this is a huge undertaking, but we will be posting the daily lessons in real time.  Follow along with us and feel free to use and adapt all of our activities. Knowing that we are helping AP Stats teachers and students is what keeps us motivated!

Activity: Can You Smell Parkinson's Disease?
Answer Key:

This activity comes to us from Doug Tyson. We attended his session at the NCTM annual conference last year and were blown away. We immediately did the activity with students in Intro Stats when we got back and the engagement and understanding of students was incredible. Check out his site for the full version of the activity, as well as a video explaining the lesson more thoroughly.

Today is the first day of school. While in the past we spent this day doing introductions and such, this year we really want to get students thinking about statistics right away. We want to hook students, to show them the relevance and importance of understanding statistics. For some students, the thought of AP Stats has been stressing them out all summer. We’re going to show them today that they CAN do statistics through this activity’s accessibility.

You will need to make a set of 12 'T-shirts' for each group of 4. We used card stock so that you couldn't see through them. 

Begin by giving students some information about Parkinson's disease so everyone is on the same page. Then, show the video below:

After the video, give a brief recap and ask the students to discuss whether or not they think Joy can smell Parkinson’s disease and to complete the front page of the activity. Walk around the room and ask groups what they think. Can Joy really smell Parkinson’s disease? If they say no, follow up by asking what it would take to convince them. If they say yes, ask why. Is it possible she’s just a really good guesser? If she got 10 out of 12 correct would you still believe her?

Share out answers and discuss with the class that in statistics we don’t always know for sure if a claim is true.  It is possible that Joy is just a good guesser. Even if she got 12 out of 12 correct, it would still be possible that she had just guessed. But in statistics we figure out the likelihood of something happening purely by chance and if it is unlikely to occur by chance have strong evidence to make a conclusion. This is really the main goal for this course.

That being said, we want to investigate, what is the likelihood of Joy guessing 11 or more correct if she really can’t smell Parkinson’s disease (just by guessing)? Pick a student from the class to smell a shirt and guess whether it has been worn by someone with Parkinson’s or not. Show the student the shirt and have them guess “yes” or “no”. Reveal the answer. Try a couple more.

Have students complete the simulation in their groups. When they’re done they should add a sticker to the dotplot at the front of the room for the number of correct guesses.

You can also show students how to simulate using technology. The variable name is “Guesses”, the categories are “Correct” and “Incorrect”. Start with Joy’s 11 correct and 1 incorrect. Scroll to the bottom pull down menu and choose “Simulate sample count”. Set the hypothesized proportion at 0.5 and start taking samples. The applet will also allow you to find the percent of values greater than or equal to 11 (the P-value!).

After students have completed the rest of the activity, you should still have some students who think Joy cannot smell the disease. Show the second video, pause after 7 seconds, then mic drop. Your students are now hooked on statistics.

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