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Class Opener – Day 60 – Herding the Cats

After a wonderful Thanksgiving break (made more wonderful by the Eagles win over the Cowboys!), it’s the 3-week sprint to the holidays, followed by 2 full weeks before final exams.  There’s a lot of stopping and starting going on, which doesn’t help continuity when thinking about class content.  In my AP Stats class, we are deep into our unit on experimental design, which is filled with ideas, terms and arguments must different than a traditional math class. Groups are working through their “Old Wives’ Tales” project, and after grading some student responses this weekend I need an opener which brings the whole class back into the Stats circle. My friend Glenn Waddell has some awesome resources for statistics on his website, which provided inspiration for today’s opener – a short video from ABC News featuring the placebo effect.

http://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=19850208
More ABC US news | ABC World News

For today’s opener, I asked students to design an experiment which could prove (or disprove) the efficacy of the WYFFT “energy drink”.  This gave groups much to talk about, and a thorough discussion of elements of experimental design, including:

  • Treatments: WYFFT is not a “real” drink, it’s just soda. Students conjectured that the labeling and associated signage were the actual treatment. We can compare this vs a plain bottle, or against no drink at all.
  • Matched-Pairs: could subjects plausibly participate in both treatments? Is this reasionable?
  • Blocking: could the implied reaction be different in men than in women? Perhaps we should have two different experiments?
  • Response: what exactly are we measuring? What would be a suitable activity to measure a change in energy?
  • Randomization: how will subects be selected for the treatments?

And we are off and running after a long turkey-induced rest!

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