Statistics students in South Texas high schools had an historic opportunity March 3 at The University of Texas-Pan American, where for the first time they got to participate in a Beyond AP (Advanced Placement) Statistics Workshop conducted by the American Statistical Association in partnership with the University.
Normally designed for teachers of statistics, this workshop allowed approximately 80 students to hear from experts in the field talk on a number of topics including "Quality Control," "Design and Analysis of Experiments and Statistical Analysis of Experiments," and "Statistical Analysis of Aphid Data: An AP Case Study."
Matis said that for the past 10 years, the American Statistical Association has sponsored the "Beyond AP Statistics" workshop specifically for teachers in order to provide them new applications and insights on how to relate statistics to the real world to benefit student learning. Designing it to include students also, he said, was a result of a meeting with South Texas teacher Janet Scholfield while at a national meeting grading AP statistics exams. Scholfield, who teaches AP statistics to 10th through 12th grade students at the South Texas Science Academy in Mercedes, recommended adding students to the workshops as well.
"This is the first time we've ever invited high school students also. Now we have a combination of both teachers and students to talk about how you apply statistics outside the classroom and in the real world. We talk about new tools and applications of statistics. On behalf of the American Statistical Association, this workshop today is our grand 'statistical' experiment," Matis said.
Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, interim provost/vice president for Academic Affairs, who welcomed attendees, said the workshop provided a significant opportunity for students in several ways.
"The workshop topics that they are exploring help students see that what they are learning has real life implications and is something they can use everyday. It also allows them to do this in a university setting, interacting with the experts in that field. In addition, it exposes them to the campus, allowing them to see what the possibilities are and encouraging those kids that might not be thinking of going beyond high school," she said.
Scholfield said she enjoyed that the workshop provided both theoretical and applied presentations on statistics.
"The kids got to see the interaction between the two and see how to take the theory and go into the practice and what kinds of things become important," she said.
Attending the conference from Harlingen South High School, senior William Ashton, who wants to be a teacher, said attending the workshop at UTPA gave him an opportunity to see how college life and courses are going to be while Gabriel Mok, a senior at the Science Academy who is interested in the application of statistics to engineering and economics, said he enjoyed most learning more about "how stats relate to real life."
Hoping to be an engineer one day, Juan Valdez, a Science Academy junior, said he appreciated the more advanced material provided in the workshop. "I didn't realize how much an engineer needed statistics. It made me really appreciate the courses I'm taking," he said.
Science Academy senior Sarah Yang, who plans on becoming a doctor, also appreciated the college-level presentations.
"Hearing and getting exposure to this kind of stuff is really rare and I'm glad to have the opportunity to be here today," she said.
The workshop co-sponsor, the American Statistical Association, is a scientific and educational society founded in 1839 with a mission to promote excellence in the application of statistical science across the wealth of human endeavor according to its Web site. With 16,000 members in the United States, Canada, and overseas from government, academia and the private sector, the organization strives to be a world leader in promoting statistical practice, applications, and research; publishing statistical journals; improving statistical education; and advancing the statistics profession.