Implementing an Interactive Computer Laboratory
to Support Discovery-Based Statistics Courses
for Liberal Arts Students and Future Teachers

Anne Sevin and
Mohammad Salmassi

Framingham State College
100 State Street
Framingham, MA 01701-9101

Grant Number: DUE: 9551659

Since the majority of students concentrating in mathematics at Framingham State College are in one of three teacher-preparation programs, it is critical that the Mathematics Department curriculum prepares these students for the classrooms they will enter, both in terms of mathematical content and in terms of pedagogy. The need that this ILI project is designed to address is to provide the department with a technology-rich environment in which we can teach using instructional methods that will both enhance the learning of all students and will model instructional methods and provide training in current technology for those students preparing to be teachers.

There are many areas of mathematics where the use of technology can facilitate learning. Statistics is one area where computers, coupled with an approach that allows students to construct their own knowledge through hands-on, exploratory activities, can greatly enhance student learning. Also, statistics and probability are playing an increasingly important role in the pre-college mathematics curriculum. The goal of this ILI project is to provide a computer classroom where the Mathematics Department can teach both the introductory statistics course and the mathematical statistics sequence using instructional methods in which students are actively involved in learning, can construct knowledge for themselves, have an opportunity to talk and write about statistics, move from the concrete to the abstract and do authentic tasks in realistic contexts.

The layout of the computer classroom is designed to optimize this sort of activity. There are twenty IBM-compatible multimedia student workstations with pentium processors around three sides of the room. In the center are tables and chairs which can be configured for whole-group discussions, for lectures, or for students working in small groups. Students can discuss their work or carry out hands-on projects such as spinning pennies at these tables, then move to computers to summarize and analyze their data. The computers are part of the campus-wide LAN so that students can access MINITAB statistical software for computational purposes and, eventually, CONSTATS, for investigating statistical concepts.

Many of the materials used to teach the introductory statistics course using the instructional approach described above have been developed by the Project Director in her text Discovering Statistics - An Interactive Approach (currently in manuscript form). Additional resources include the NSF-funded Activity-Based Statistics Project, the Quantitative Literacy Series, the electronic Journal of Statistics Education, and the Chance database on the Internet. Examples of some of these materials will be available as part of this poster session.

Finally, we will present some of our observations about the ways in which teaching introductory statistics in our new ILI-funded computer classroom has affected our teaching, as well as our students' reactions to statistics and to using computers in this setting.

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