Tips for students

There are a few lucky students who seem to learn even the hardest statistics effortlessly.  The rest of us can only envy them and learn statistics by working at it. Here are some tips that may help you avoid the shock of reality at mid-semester.

1. Do I understand the question?
• Statistics problems are meant to be read slowly so the technique of speed reading should never be used when reading a statistics problem.  Read it slowly and when you encounter a new concept, do not expect to understand it on the first reading, no matter how carefully you've read it.  In other words, read the problem at least twice.
• Disregard extra information that is not needed to solve this problem.
• Recognize what the question is asking and the only way that can happen by practicing with homework exercises.  The homework exercises will train your mind and sharpen your intuition.  So, do the homework; it will pay off in the end.
2. Develop a plan. Ask yourself these questions.
• Do I have too much information?
• How many steps will I have here?
• Should I use a calculator?  For obvious reasons, always use a pencil to do statistics homework (and exams).  Also, become familiar with your TI-84 calculator.  It is an essential tool.
3. Work out the solution.  You are now ready to solve this problem.
• Test your procedure.  By learning the concepts and the definitions in each chapter, the procedures will be more obvious.
• Your greatest assets are in the class with you because your fellow students are in the same boat.  Use them as a resource.
4. Reflect on what you have done.  You have solved the problem, but is it correct?
• Does the answer make sense?
• Is the answer correctly labeled?
• Did you actually answer the question?
• Should you explain the procedure for finding the answer by adding some verbiage?

Organize a study group of three to five.  Try to meet at least once per week so you can work together on homework and compare lecture notes.  You do not want to be in the group that works on statistics between beers and Monday Night Football because there is no success there.  When you form a group, it might be a good idea to inform me that you have done so and who the members are since that will explain why all of you turn in the same answer on a particular assignment.  While in the group, have one person get up and do a problem on the board, explaining what he or she is doing as the problem unfolds.  If the person at the board gets stuck, the others in the group should try to provide hints or ask the person at the board leading questions.  If the person at the board is doing fine, the others in the group should challenge him or her.  Make the problem-doer justify each step orally.  If anybody in the group does not understand a step, the person at the board must explain it to his or her satisfaction.  When one person is done with a problem, somebody else should get up and do the next problem on the board.  Everyone should participate.

A final note: you will be tested as an individual.  Despite the helpfulness of your group activities, in the end your ability to solve problems will determine your grade.  So, following your group get-togethers, you should solve a few exercises by yourself.

Make this course a priority.  If you follow the above tips, you will be successful.  Remember, you need to pass this class.

Department of Statistics
3304 Everett Tower
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-#### USA
(269) 387-1420 | (269) 387-1419 Fax
stat-loren.heun@wmich.edu