Data Analysis with Minitab Is Par for This Course

Learning statistics is easier when students can connect their lessons with hands-on experiences. Students in one New Jersey community do that by combining an afternoon of fun with serious data collection, and then analyzing and interpreting the results with Minitab Statistical Software. 

mini golf 

The approach their teachers took to giving them hands-on experience is one that could be easily replicated in other schools, with variations driven by the activities available in the community.

In this case, Ocean City High School is just blocks from that city’s famous boardwalk. On a May afternoon, teachers Ed Ritti, Helene Keller, and Joseph Lehman took their probability and statistics students to the Congo Falls Adventure Golf facility.

“We always look to have students gather their own data and have their problems be as real-world as possible,” Ritti says. “For this project, they needed to create ratings like the U.S. Golf Association would, and to rank which holes are most difficult on the miniature golf courses.”

In teams of three, the students photographed, measured and detailed all obstacles for an assigned hole. Then the students played two full rounds of golf, collecting par data for each hole as they went.

When they returned to the classroom, they needed to use the data they collected to assess and rank the difficulty of each hole.

They began by using Minitab to produce descriptive statistics for each hole. The statistics provided some insights, but also taught the students lessons about the challenges of interpreting data. 

“They were having a difficult time comparing holes that had very skewed data with other holes,” Ritti notes. “They had some good discussions about whether to use the mean or the median.” Then the students created and compared histograms and boxplots for all 18 holes. The visual representation of the data made the discussion of which holes were most difficult easier. “So many of my students are visual, and being able to create that visual representation is really important,” Ritti says. “And it’s really easy to do in Minitab.” 

main effects plot

contour plot of dissolution

After completing their analysis, the students produced a laminated, 70-page booklet which diagrams each hole and ranks their difficulty. The students presented the booklet to Congo Falls executives, who have made it available for visitors to read as they prepare to play the course themselves.

Using statistical software helps the students apply the concepts they learn in the classroom, and also makes data analysis more accessible. “Students come into the class thinking it’ll be really hard, but they don’t understand how easy Minitab is to use,” Ritti says. “In the past I’ve taught this class using Excel, but it’s much easier for the students to do the analyses and create the graphs they need using Minitab.” 

Experience with Minitab also has benefited students as they continue their educations. “I get e-mails and feedback from former students where they say ‘Thank you for using Minitab,’ because once they got into college and took a statistics course, they were ahead of everyone else,” Ritti says.  “And it’s great to hear that!”

For more ideas about using Minitab software to teach and learn statistics, visit http://www.minitab.com/academic/.

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