Activities, Questions & Challenges


Activity: Replot NASA Graph

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Using data from Wolfram Alpha or some other source, replot the NASA graph here either: 1. Controlling for inflation, 2. Tracking expenditure as a percentage of GDP, or 3. Tracking expenditure as a percentage of government spending. Defend your choice, and note any differences in the shape of the graph that result.

death penalty

Activity: Death Penalty Poll

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First, read How to Construct a Bogus Survey. Second, consider this poll from The Washington Post’s website. Walk through what would happen if you set up the poll in various different ways. Be ridiculous where it helps. For the moment, ignore issues of non-response and response bias. Name at least one strength and one weakness […]


Activities to Reinforce: “Why Comparing Averages is Just a Starting Point”

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Remember — questions will not only test the previous chapter. They will test all previous content (In this case everything from the golden rule, to subpopulations, to averages, to distributions). Figuring out which concept to apply to each problem is often the crucial skill, so we don’t indicate which concept comes into play. In some cases […]


Activities Following “Percentages, the Swiss Army Knife of Comparison”

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Questions: 1. Rick Santorum, a candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination, claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it.” [Source:] What is being explicitly compared here? Is it a longitudinal or cross-sectional comparison? If 62 percent is the “part”, what is the “whole”? 2. Of […]


Activity: Effect Sizes and Mind-Mapping

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Example from A Theory-Based Meta-Analysis of Research on Instruction by RJ Marzano: The next two techniques displayed in Table 7.2 employed the information processing function of idea representation.  Techniques that provided students with metacognitive strategies for using visual memory had an effect size of 1.04, indicating a percentile gain of 35 points.  Presumably, these strategies help […]


Activity Following “Stocks, Inflows, and Outflows”

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1. Consider the following issue: 17.1. A major controversy has occurred about apparent contradictions in biostatistical data as researchers try to convince Congress to allocate more funds for intramural and extramural investigations supported by the NIH. Citing improved survival rates for conditions such as cervical cancer, breast cancer, and leukemia, clinicians claim we are “winning […]

Activity Following “Surrogate Outcomes”

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Focused question: While “surrogate outcomes” and “clinical outcomes” are terms generally used in medicine, the same concept can be applied to a wide range of disciplines. Come up with the equivalent of a “surrogate outcome” and its corresponding “clinically meaningful outcome” for each of the following disciplines: Education Economics/Economy Politics  


Activity: New Housing Starts Graph

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The following graph is from Architect Magazine. The caption reads: “The construction boom of the 2000s often cited as the reason for the boom in housing prices doesn’t break precedent—or break records. At a time when U.S. population growth was slower, the 1970s saw two housing booms that produced more housing starts than the 2000s. The high […]


Mental Experiment: Undocumented Immigrants in the University of California System

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Dream Act rally in Washington, D.C.   From the June 9 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor: CARLSON: So, at University of California schools — just to get this in. O’REILLY: Right. CARLSON: In 2009, about 35 percent of the in-state tuition people or students were illegals. O’REILLY: Really? That’s an interesting stat, Carlson. [Fox News, The […]


Activity: Fluoridation and Decayed, Missing, and Filled Teeth

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From Promoting Oral Health:The Use of Salt Fluoridation to Prevent Dental Caries by Saskia Estupiñán-Day. This chart shows the incidence of decayed, missing, and filled teeth in children in a town that used fluoridation against a set of control towns that did not. 1. For the purposes of this graph, how was “fluoridation” defined? 2. Would this […]


Activity: Rabbits

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The settler Thomas Austin released 24 wild rabbits on his Australian farm, called Barwon Park, in 1859, and some other Australian farmers later followed his example. Rabbits are sexually mature at about six months, and they have a 31-day gestation period. Given a favorable environment, rabbits can easily increase their population fourfold in a year. […]


Activity: Law Salaries

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The graph above shows salaries of 2006 graduates of law school as measured in 2007. 1. The study did not include people out of work. How might the graph shape change if it included people out of work? Would the median salary be lower or higher? 2. Look up the term “bimodal distribution”. Does this […]


Activity: Rent vs. Mortgage Cost

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Some people say that we couldn’t have known there was a real estate bubble. But quite a few economists pointed out well before the crash that the “price/rent” ratio — that is, the average cost of owning a house/apartment divided by the average cost of renting — was well outside of historical norms. This led economist […]


Activity: UGC Graphic

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Apply the COMPARABLE checklist to the comparison “How much of a rule does UGC play in your purchasing decisions?” What are some strengths of the comparison? What might be a better comparison?L Look up the source of the infographic. How might the interests of the producer of the graphic affect the presentation of the information?


Activity: CEO Pay Infographic

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Via Click on the graphic to enlarge.   IN this graphic, the association is made that the more people were laid off at a company, the bigger the salary. That seems like we are rewarding incompetence! What might be a confounding factor? What should be taken into account to fix the comparison? Hint: ptgaeocfiszeoynmtp If such […]


Activity: Safety of Banks vs. Credit Unions Infographic

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From   1. Use the Junk Charts Trifecta to evaluate this graphic: a. What issue does this graphic address? What questions does it try to answer? b. What does the chart say? c. What does the data say? 2. What information would you need to better evaluate these charts? How might you alter the measures […]


Activity: Hidden Sugar Infographic

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From   First, a comment — note how nicely their sources are laid out. You don’t know what goes to what, but at least you have a starting point. Now, questions: 1. Source: Who is OnlineSchools? What’s their stake in this issue? Did they collect the data, or did someone else? 2. Look at comparison […]


Activity: New Buildings Per Person

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Did overbuilding houses lead to the recession? Matthew Yglesias shows this graph to demonstrate that overbuilding wasn’t the problem: He explains: On the general subject of recession myths, here’s another statistical look at the myth that the speculative boom in land prices led to some kind of crazy amount of overinvestment in houses. What we […]

Activity: Turn of the Century Chinese-American Crime

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From “Violent Land”, by David T. Courtright, p.163: And prejudice alone cannot explain the disproportionate arrests…for serious personal and property crimes.  In Portland, Oregon, for example the Chinese made up 8 percent of the city’s population from 1871 to 1885 but accounted for 31 percent of arrests for homicide, 21 percent for aggravated assaults, 14 […]

europe and us

Activity: French Billionaires

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From Forbes: Bringing Up Bebe? No Thanks. I’d Rather Raise a Billionaire Quick: Name a French billionaire. Now name one who is self-made. A bit harder, non? According to the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, published today, France has sixteen billionaires. The U.S. boasts far more: 425. And a great number of those American billionaires, from Bill Gates (No. […]

Report  83 percent of doctors have considered quitting over Obamacare   The Daily Caller

Activity: Doctor Poll on Current Attitudes

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Read the following poll on the attitudes of working doctors: 1. Refresh your understanding of non-response bias. Is the response rate sufficient to exclude non-response bias? Why or why not? 2. Response bias (as opposed to non-response bias) deals with the tendency of people to answer poll questions in a way to achieve some […]

Intention to vote

Activity: Intention to Vote

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Read the following poll results, then answer the questions. This is a poll that asks people how likely they are to vote in the 2012 election. 1. What is the cut-point for “Intends to vote”. How does it effect the results? How might changing the cut point change the results? 2a. This compares intent to […]


Activity: Labeling Restaurant Food

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After nutritional labeling went into effect in New York City, a large sample of people were polled about how the label affected their behavior — 27% reported the new labels influenced their behavior, and 10% of people reported purchasing fewer calories as a result. However, when researchers looked at the average amount of calories purchased […]


Readings: Comparing Cranial Size (from Cranioklepty)

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Morton’s findings, published in his Crania Americana (1839) and Crania Aegyptiaca (1844), were enormously influential in appearing to demonstrate, by means of his system, that there was a clear hierarchy in brain size between different peoples. At the top of his scheme was the European, followed by the American Indian, and then the African, just one short step above […]

Activity: “Keeping Trash Out of the Landfill”

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Read the post, “Keeping_gameday_trash_out_of_the_landfill.” During the three recent football games listed (Iowa v. Cent. Michigan, Iowa v. Northern Iowa, and Iowa v. Iowa State) what was the percentage of food waste for compost of the total waste for each game? The article touts a nearly 60% recycling/composting rate following the Iowa vs. Northern Iowa game. […]