Thursday, August 20, 2009


All day, 8:30 to about 5:00, at the BAPS (Beyond AP Statistics) workshop held in conjunction with the JSM (Joint Statistical Meetings) at the Washington Convention Center. Actually, BAPS is held at the Shaw campus of Center City Public Charter Schools, 711 N St., NW, about a block north. Arriving at 8:25, I am surprised to find that I am late, since the plenary session for BAPS and MWM (Meeting Within a Meeting) participants has already started. I ride down the elevator to the auditorium with Roxy Peck, the BAPS organizer.

Chris Olsen, instructor from my 1998 AP Stat workshop in Palo Alto, is presenting in one of the other tracks. I chat him up at lunch and give him my card. He is particularly interested in LectureScribe.

I exchange contact info with a DC teacher who has been using Chris Olsen’s (and Roxy Peck’s) AP Stat textbook, since I will be using it for the first time this year.

Four BAPS talks (plus a lunchtime plenary session), probably the best of which is Allan Rossman’s BAPS talk on using simulations to assess statistical significance in a completely general way, applicable even when the situation does not satisfy the usual assumptions. He sees this approach (and I agree) as a way to “build in” understanding of P-value and significance from the ground up, spiraling the topics all through the course. Rossman’s colleague Beth Chance, a noted researcher and award-winning stat ed expert in her own right, is relegated to the role of computer operator during the talk. As it happens, I am seated immediately to her right and get to watch all the inputs (and one minor uncorrected Java applet bug). Rossman encourages all of us to apply to be AP Stat readers next summer. The scheduling just might work out: second week of June, Daytona Beach, hmmm . . .

At the JSM trade show, I line up a guest speaker from the IRS and score minimal swag from other vendors (one ballpoint pen is all). However, since the CDC has nobody at the booth and lots of great handouts, I scoop up several reprint articles and a class set of one reprint that my stat students should find interesting. Also get free dataset download info from NCHS, SAMHDA, and IRS. I try chatting up the Google recruiter on the way out: “Do you ever hire people for the summer?” Answer is a flat no, unless the person is (1) a college intern and presumably (2) ├╝ber-smart. OK, so I clearly don’t qualify. What about my students? The answer is that people like Nicholas Ink might qualify under the Summer of Code mentoring/stipend program, but only if they are 18 by April of the program year. Good to know.

Strangest item for sale: Jason Rosenhouse’s new book on the Monty Hall problem. Skimming it, I cannot understand the extraordinary lengths to which he went in order to spin a book-length treatment. Guess I might have to read it.

Things I should have already known about (but thank heavens I at least know about them now): TED lectures, R, and the Rossman/Chance Applet Collection. I think any professional development outing is a justifiable expense if one comes away with at least one such item, and since my $50 registration fee is being reimbursed by WSS, the ROI is off the charts for BAPS/JSM. NCTM was also a bargain in April, though it cost several hundred dollars. Three things I learned about at NCTM (SketchUp, Geogebra, and the technique for folding a dollar bill into a regular tetrahedron) also fall into the category of “things I should have already known about, but thank heavens I at least know about them now.”

I almost buy a book on mathematics in art, but there is no price marked. I decide to buy it if the price is $30 or less. Unfortunately, the price, even with the show discount, is about double that, and I head for the Metro.

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