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Plenary Session 7. (After Dinner Address) What Can Cheap Computing Offer Statistics Literacy?

Keynote Speaker

George W. Cobb (USA)

Plenary Session Abstract

For statistics at the research level, cheap computing has pushed aside the old order and ushered in a new one based on algorithmic thinking. This is a much deeper change than just teaching an old dog faster ways to do the standard tricks.  The old dog now lies content in the sun; computers have brought us an energetic young puppy who is eagerly exploring the whole field anew.

What does all this mean, if anything, for statistical thinking at the introductory level?  Is it time for the standard curriculum to lie down in a sunny spot and give some new puppies a chance?  My view on this is still evolving, in response to what I read, what I hear from colleagues, and what I learn from my students in the classroom.  Thus I can't say for certain where my thinking will be in July 2002, but my general theme will be the opportunities that algorithmic thinking offers us to revisit basic ideas of statistics.


Keynote Speaker Biography

George Cobb

George Cobb was an undergraduate Russian major (A.B. Dartmouth College) before turning to statistics in graduate school (M.S., Medical College of Virginia; Ph.D., Harvard).  He is currently the Robert L. Rooke Professor of Mathematics at Mount Holyoke College, USA where he maintains a precarious professional existence on the cusp between the scholarly and the sophomoric.  Efforts of the latter kind include "Three Ways to Gum up a Statistics Course" on the emerging science of confectionary ballistics (specifically, the trajectory of spring-launched soft candy bears) and "Brains, Slime, and Elasticities" (which uses white glue to cement a long-suspected connection between econometricians and paleobiologist Stephen Jay Gould).   More serious efforts include serving as the first chair of the Joint Committee on Undergraduate Statistics of the Mathematical Association of America and the American Statistical Association (1991-1998), editing that committee's 1992 report "Teaching Statistics," and serving for three years on the National Research Council's Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics.  He has written a textbook, Introduction to the Design and Analysis of Experiments, and co-authored three introductory-level workbook/interactive CDs.  Two recent articles include "Mere Literacy is Not Enough" and, with David Moore, "Mathematics, Statistics, and Teaching."  He is currently at work on an undergraduate textbook on discrete Markov chain Monte Carlo methods.

George W. Cobb
Robert L. Rooke Professor of Mathematics
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA  01075
Ph.  413-538-2401

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