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After the AP Exam: The Data Science Challenge

Written by Luke Wilcox


Last year at East Kentwood High School, my students had a full four weeks of school after the AP Stats Exam. I don’t know about you, but that is way too much time to sit around and do nothing. But with students all burned out from all the AP Exams, I needed something different than the typical routine. And then I heard about the Data Science Challenge from Skew the Script.

In the challenge, students analyze a big dataset on student debt at various colleges. Students have the opportunity to apply what they learned in AP Stats, while learning some coding skills, as they try and predict which colleges minimize debt. What I really liked about all of this is that students would get a chance to actually “do statistics” like it is done in the real world – using real data sets, real computing power, and machine learning to build models for prediction.

I did have some hesitations at first. I didn’t know a thing about using the R software, and I didn’t have much spare time to prepare materials. Lucky for me, the challenge is built with the expectation that the students (and the teacher) have no prior coding knowledge. Ultimately, I decided to go through the challenge with my students, and would now consider myself comfortable with the basics of R. It really can do some amazing stats!

What AP Stats Students Need:

  • One full year of AP Stats. Students will need to be familiar with basic data analysis, including linear regression, making predictions, and residuals. Since they've taken AP Stats, they definitely have this!

  • 1 - 2 weeks after the AP Exam. All of my students completed the entire challenge in two weeks or less. At the end of the project, students presented their own results.

  • Internet + laptop/Chromebooks. Our school-issued Chromebooks did the trick for my students.

What AP Stats Students Don’t Need:

  • Coding experience. None of my students had any computer science experience (neither did I) and all of them were able to complete the challenge.

  • Fancy software. No programs to purchase or install. Everything happens inside a web browser.

Note: The challenge is also open to students that have taken an AP Computer Science course (instead of AP Stats). Their coding background will be helpful, and the modules will walk them through the stats material that they'll need.

How Did it Go?

The work is organized for students into 4 notebooks. These were already prepared and I just had to share them with students. The notebooks take the students step-by-step through the code. Students get to try their own code right inside the notebook and they can immediately see if it is working or not.


Based on my own experience, here are my top 3 tips for good implementation:

  • Make due dates for each Notebook. This helped to keep my students focused and on task.

  • Have students work in pairs so that they can help troubleshoot each other’s code when it isn’t working.

  • As the teacher, do each Notebook before the students will start work on it. This will help you to anticipate where students will get stuck and to be able to help them when they do get stuck.

Overall, the Data Science Challenge was the perfect project for after the AP Exam. I could see some of my students starting to think about how they might use Statistics and Data Science in their future careers. Students enjoyed it because having a project was a nice shift away from the homework-quiz-test rhythm of the school year and they all saw the immediate relevance to their own lives.

Responses from my students:

“I think the context for the Data Science Challenge was really good because it allowed for me to learn about student debt and it’s a big issue for students who are applying to college, like me.”

-Bayan Zeqlam

“I had little to no experience and I was able to learn it, because the videos and instructions were very clear and it was easy to follow.”

 – Hanna Kovacevic

“I feel like using the Data Science Challenge would be useful to students since they are starting to apply for college, and they need to gather all this information.”

– Brianna Cardona

I plan to use this project with my students again this year. My hope is that it will inspire a few to continue their stats education by pursuing a degree in Data Science!


How To Get Your Students Signed Up:

Registration is not open yet for this year, but add yourself to the Data Science Challenge mailing list to stay in the loop.

2,710 views3 comments


Unknown member
Feb 22

Do you do this instead of giving a final exam?

Luke Wilcox
Luke Wilcox
Feb 22
Replying to

No I actually give my final exam before the AP Exam. I use the Data Science Challenge after the AP Exam with a grade for completion.


Unknown member
Feb 15

Is it possible to get the 'Notebooks' from the 2023 Challenge?

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