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Statistics: The Science and Art of Data (Lesson 1.1)

Chapter 1 - Day 1

Learning Targets
  • Identify the individuals and variables in a data set, then classify the variables as categorical or quantitative.
  • Summarize the distribution of a variable with a frequency table or a relative frequency table.
Activity: Can Joy Smell Parkinson’s?

Experience First

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 and to show them the relevance and importance of understanding statistics. A huge thank you to Doug Tyson for coming up with this incredible activity. 

Before class, you will need to print out and cut out the shirts in the file linked above. Each pair of students will need one set of shirts. We used card stock so that students can’t see through them, and we even got them laminated. You will also want to prepare a class dotplot with an x-axis labeled 0 to 12. We prefer to make these class dotplots using sticker dots on poster board or sticky easel pad paper. This way we can save them for later discussion (you’re gonna want to save this one!).


Start the lesson by showing them the video below:

After the video, students will participate in their first groupwork activity of the year. To encourage positive discussion, we introduce a very simple protocol called READ, DISCUSS, WRITE.

READ: The Reader starts from the top of the page and reads. They stop at the end of the first question.

DISCUSS: The group has a short discussion. Be sure to encourage everyone to participate.

WRITE: Summarize your discussion by writing down an answer. I don’t care if it’s wrong or right, I just want to know what your group talked about.


Tell students that they should stop at the bottom of the page.


As students are discussing, 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?


When the first group finishes, have them write their answers on the white board while you continue to engage with other groups that are finishing. Once all groups are mostly done, do a formal debrief of page 1, asking students to explain what they wrote on the board.


Next we want to investigate 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 (yes, have them smell it!) and guess whether it has been worn by someone with Parkinson’s or not. Don’t reveal their performance until they have smelled all 12 shirts. There is a collaborative digital version of this activity here.


Have students complete the experiment in their groups. Once complete, they should add a sticker to the dotplot at the front of the room for the number of correct guesses and complete the questions on page 2 of the activity.

Formalize Later

At the end of page 1 and at the end of page 2 of the activity, you should lead the whole group in a discussion. This is where you formalize the learning that took place during the experience. You will likely add some additional notes to the student solutions on the board. We suggest using a red marker for the teacher formal notes and we encourage our students to add these notes to their own using a different color marker (PaperMate flairs!). The Answer Keys are designed to show you student work (blue) and teacher formal notes (red).

As part of the debrief, you can use the applet to do many, many simulations quickly.  In the Teacher Panel at the bottom, you can run the experiment many times silently and add the results to the dotplot. Then use the applet to find the percent of values greater than or equal to 11 (the P-value!).

As you are approaching the end of the first day of class, show the next video, pause after 7 seconds, then mic drop. Your students are now hooked on statistics!

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