Category Archives: Teaching


Back in 2007 (or was it 2008?), I joined a group working to develop an online portal or community for folks teaching research methods. At the two APSA TLC meetings I attended, the folks in the teaching research methods track always wanted a place to post information and questions about teaching methods. Then, in 2007, Phil Schrodt, Jan Box-Steffensmeier, and Dean Lacy gave a workshop at the TLC about their efforts to develop a wiki-based, open-source textbook. It seemed logical to combine the textbook idea with the type of online community the APSA TLC attendees wanted. Bill Anderson and I were invited to join Phil and Jan’s efforts to get funding, and we picked up Bill Jacoby along the way, too. A few meetings and many, many emails later, we have funding and the beginning of a site, with the help of folks at ICPSR. I have been busy corresponding with the site developer at ICPSR to build the site and with the other members of project to put together our first workshops to get the project moving. Here’s the Call for Participants.

Using Mythbusters to teach intro stats concepts

Brian and I have watched a handful of Mythbusters lately that have used some basic statistics to either set up the test of the myth or to test the myth. I’m wondering if anyone’s ever used some of the clips in an undergraduate methods class. It seems there are lots of episodes that could but used to illustrate different types of experimental designs. But, there are also some that use statistics based on the data they collect. For instance, in this episode (see Vector Vengeance), they calculate the standard deviation across multiple cannons to determine which is the most consistent way to launch a ball. In this other episode, they are testing whether men or women, redheads or non-redheads, and cursing or not cursing explain differences in people’s ability to handle pain. They calculate means across the different groups, but stop short of a difference of means test. It seems you could (re)create the individual data to match up with their means and then do small sample difference of means tests in class.

For now, I’m making a list of episodes and saving them in my teaching undergrad stats folder in the event that I am called upon to teach that course. I also have a running list of episodes from The Big Bang Theory, including the opening scene of “The Friendship Algorithm,” when Kripke comes by and makes fun of Leonard’s experiment with 20K observations and not a single statistically significant result. Bazinga!