Basics of Descriptive and Inferential Statistics   STAT 1380

WELCOME!  ¡BIENVENIDOS!              August 2007


Description from Undergraduate Catalog:  “A course in statistical literacy.  Emphasis will be on standard descriptive measures of location, spread, and association.  Regression, probability and sampling, and binomial distribution.  Interpretation of data which occur in daily life (polls, weather forecasting, surveys, quality control, etc.) will be stressed.” Prerequisite: Math 1319, 1320, 1508 or equivalent or TCCN Math 1314.


This course will expose you to typical intro topics but with particular emphasis on and grounding in conceptual understanding and statistical literacy in real life.  You deserve, need and will be offered more than a plug-and-chug, memorize-the-recipes experience!  You’ll be able to critically evaluate statistics commonly found in the media and in your major field. You’ll become acquainted with what is involved in the collection, interpretation, and communication of real-world data to explore questions of interest.  You’ll gain background that will help you answer probability and statistics questions on the TExES/ExCET (, teach students the probability/statistics TEKS (, and make appropriate connections to the NCTM Standards (,   PreK-8 Curriculum Focal Points (, the GAISE PreK-12 Curriculum Framework (, and the NCTM Focus of the Year (


Instructor:  Assoc. Prof. Dr. Larry Lesser (rhymes with “professor”, spelled like “<”)  

I began teaching university courses (especially statistics!) in 1988, and I’ve also worked as a state agency statistician and as a full-time high school teacher!  More info at my homepage:   (FYI:  From there, click on “SCHEDULE” and you can access the syllabus if you ever lose this one)


How to reach me:  my official Bell Hall 213 office hours will start off as MW  3-3:30 & 4:30-5:20, TTh 1:30-2 and by appointment, with changes to be announced/posted; also, feel free to ask me (or leave me) questions by phone (747-6845; “SIR-OUIJA”) or email (Lesser (at); please include the class time in the subject line when you email).  It’s both my job and privilege to serve you and to provide guidance. 


Textbook:  Jessica UttsSeeing Through Statistics (3rd ed.; 2005) Duxbury Press.

Subject to change based on timing, resources and interest, we plan to uncover (in order):  chapters 1-11, 16, 20, 22.  The instructor will provide some supplementary material via handouts that you will also be responsible for on topics such as simulation, sample space, counting rules, the binomial distribution, and the geometric distribution.   You are expected to read each chapter and do the selected HW problems for that chapter (see below) before the class meeting we discuss that chapter and to bring your book to each class.  Here are exercises to do (which will frequently be assessed via quizzes):

Ch. 1 (1, 3-5, 7,9,10,15,17,19); Ch. 2 (6,7,11,14,15), Ch. 3 (1-9,13,16,18-20,24,25a,26a), Ch. 4 (1,2,4-6,9,11,12,15,17,21,24,26), Ch. 5 (1-3,5,8-10,12,17,19,20,22,25a,27), Ch. 6, Ch. 7 (1-7, 9,12-16,19,21,25,28), Ch. 8 (2-5,7,8,11,13,17,19,21,22,25),

Ch. 9 (1,2,5,7,8b,9,14), Ch. 10(1,2,4,5,7-10,11a,12,13), Ch.11 (1-6,8-10,12,14,17,19), Ch.16 (1-3,6-12,17,18,20d,25), Ch. 20 (3,4,5ab,6,14,17), Ch. 22 (11-17).


Grades:  determined by the usual cutoffs of 90, 80, 70, 60, based on these parts:

12% Quizzes (often unannounced on recent assigned reading or HW, so be prepared)

24% Test #1 (at least a week or two in advance, I’ll confirm the exact material covered

and the date, but tentatively this will be in mid-October; on tests, you’ll be

provided formulas that are in the textbook, but without annotation)

24% Test #2 (around late November)

40% Project – project writeup (12-point Times New Roman double-spaced, APA style, checked for spelling/grammar; aim for 5-10 pages) will be due (and you must be prepared to give a short oral presentation) on the day UTEP has scheduled for our “final exam” meeting. If you have an approved reason not to be able to present during this time, you will need to arrange with me as soon as possible to turn in and present your project earlier.  Have any appropriate output/graphics electronically pasted into the document.  Sections should be clearly marked, assembled in order, and stapled (not put into a folder or sleeve) with an identification coverpage on top (that includes your name, section, date, and a title that tells us what your project is). Three different options for your project are listed at the end of this syllabus


Technology:  BRING CALCULATOR EACH CLASS.  You’ll be allowed to use it on quizzes and tests, but still have to “show your work” so I can follow your thinking by what you punched into the calculator.  Example:  when finding the mean of the numbers 1, 3, 5 you can’t just say “3”, but need to write out  (1 + 3 + 5)/3 = 3.  As logistics and interest allow, I’ll facilitate explorations to expose you to how statistics are computed in the real world with web applets, graphing calculator, software (Excel or Minitab), etc.


Academic Integrity:  As teachers, I trust you especially appreciate that cheating, plagiarism and collusion in dishonest activities are serious acts which erode the university’s purpose and integrity.  (This is also particularly crucial given the ethical challenges statistics presents to those who are tempted to “make the numbers say what they want them to say.”)  It is expected that work you submit will represent your own effort (or your own group’s effort, if it is a group project), will not involve copying from or accessing unauthorized people or resources, and will provide complete bibliographic citations in APA style of any allowable references (including people, print sources and webpages) that you do consult.  Don’t resubmit work done for other classes without specific acknowledgment and permission from me.  Violations may lead to disciplinary action from the Dean of Students Office. 

For Group Work:  Within a group, members are allowed to divide up subsets of the project for which individuals will take the initial responsibility for coordinating efforts, but it is assumed that by the time a group turns in a writeup that all members have read and understand all parts of what is being turned in.  Group members may even discuss general ideas and strategies with members of other groups, but NOT share parts of actual written work.  At a minimum, to be safe, put away all written notes and writing materials and recording devices before having any intergroup conversations.  And if you still see a “gray area”, play it safe and ask the instructor!


Attendance:  Attendance is required, and is very important considering that much of this course involves beyond-the-book group activities or discussions that are virtually impossible to recreate on one’s own.  The instructor may count tardiness or early departure as a half-absence or even a full absence, depending on what is missed.  If you miss an exam without a documented strong excuse relayed to me at the earliest opportunity, the score will be a 0. In general (out of fairness and logistics), late work will not be accepted, and may be subject to a penalty in the rare cases that it is accepted. 

It’s your responsibility to:

(1) sign the attendance sheet each day you attend

(2) have a classmate (pick a couple of study buddies NOW if you need to) give you copies of notes, handouts and announcements if you miss a class    

(3) let me know by email (Lesser (at) or voicemail (747-6845) or daytime math dept. fax (747-6502) at the earliest opportunity if you have a situation which may affect a test, assessment deadline, or multiple regular class meetings.  

(4) Give me a written note or email by the 15th day of the semester (Sept. 17) if you will have absence for religious holy days (which are excused, of course).  

As the UTEP Catalog says, “When in the judgment of the instructor, a student has been absent to such a degree as to impair his or her status relative to credit for the course, the instructor may drop the student from the class with a grade of “W” before the course drop deadline [Nov. 2] and with a grade of “F” after the course drop deadline.”  (In practical terms, this will certainly mean a student may be dropped for 3 unexcused absences or for a total of 6 absences of any kind, considering our class has  29 regular meetings!)  On a positive note, a strong record of attendance will be taken into account if your final average is a few tenths of a point shy of a letter grade cutoff.


Professionalism:   Along with basic standards of citizenship (e.g., “Student Conduct” and “Disruptive Acts Policy” in the UTEP Catalog), students in this course are required to have a collaborative attitude and professionalism.  This includes using discretion with cell phones and beepers during class time—if you are truly expecting an urgent call, please let me know and sit near the door to minimize disruption (and have your phone on “vibrate” instead of loud music).  Or you could give your family member or child care provider the phone number for the academic office or lab (e.g., ACES lab 747-8814) nearest our classroom.   That way, you can keep your phone off during class, knowing that lab staff can quickly get you if there is a true emergency.

Finally, be open to sharing or using opportunities for further professional growth.  For example:  consider attending the annual GEPCTM fall conference (Oct. 20 at EPCC Transmountain Campus) and the UTEP COE annual fall research symposium (Nov. 19, 4:30-7:30); also, encourage K-12 students to enter the ASA Poster/Project Competitions (by April 1):


Disabilities: If you have or believe you have a disability that will require accommoda-tions or modifications, you may wish to self-identify by contacting the Disabled Student Services Office (DSSO; 747-5148; East Union Building room 108;; to show documentation or register for testing and services.  DSSO will ask you to discuss needed accommodations with me within the first 2 weeks of the semester or as soon as disability is known, and at least 5 working days before an exam.  DSSO provides note taking, sign language, interpreter, reader and/or scribe services, priority registration, adaptive technology, diagnostic testing for learning disabilities, assistance with learning strategies/tutoring, alternative testing location and format, and advocacy.  All information provided to DSSO is kept strictly confidential.


English Language Learners:  I want to be responsive to the learning needs of all of my students, including those whose native or strongest language is not English.  To this end, I use recommendations from the literature, including multiple representations, connections to etymology and everyday language, advance organizers, real-world and cultural connections, and group work.  Please let me know if you think of additional ways I might support your learning and feel free to ask me to clarify wording on a test question or to rephrase or illustrate important ideas in class discussion that go by quickly.  


Statistics Resources: (Please let me know of others you find that I may not know about)  (e.g., check out issue #64)

Also, I’ve put some statistics books with other conceptual intuition or real-world connections on reserve at the UTEP Library circulation desk under “Lesser” or “Stat 1380”.  And on the third floor of the Library, free walk-in tutoring is available for this course (Tutoring and Learning Center, 747-5366;


Equity and Service Learning Resources that can connect to this course:

Note:  I gratefully acknowledge that development of this class is supported in part by Project ACE (PI: J. Tinajero), funded by the Women’s Education Equity Act of the U.S. Department of Education, and (surprise!) many statistics examples we will discuss involve or are applicable to gender equity.  Students may consider volunteering (contact: Estella Valles, at a Project ACE mother-daughter/father-son program event (Sept. 13, Sept. 26, Oct. 20).

UTEP’s Project ACE (ACtion for Equity):

UTEP’s Center for Civic Engagement

UTEP’s Women’s Resource Center:

Other related resources:



Project Options (choose ONE of these three):


(1) High-quality original TEKS-based lesson plan utilizing quantitative data to explore a question of interest (contexts involving social justice or equity are especially encouraged for exploration).  You will do this as a team of 2 or 3 and there must be a single writeup submitted for the entire team. Even though time constraints mean that you will share only an excerpt with the class on your presentation day, the writeup you give me must include:

Number and length of Class Periods for this Lesson/Unit

Grade Level or Course that is targeted
Objectives (What students should know and be able to do after the lesson)

Assessment (How you will know if the objectives were accomplished)
Levels of thinking (or levels of Bloom’s taxonomy) that are part of this lesson

Student misconceptions that might be encountered and how they will be addressed

TEKS that are addressed (see beginning of syllabus for links to this and others)

NCTM standards that are addressed

How this connects to the Curriculum Focal Points

How this connects to the K-12 GAISE Guidelines

Prerequisite knowledge/experiences
Materials (manipulatives/technology/A-V, etc.) needed
Opening activity/vignette
How groups will be formed and structured (if group work will be used)

Order of instructional activities
Classwork and Homework assignment
Closing activity
Extra activity/extension, if time remains

References (while the lesson must be mostly your own ideas, if part of it does include your adaptation of a

particular published source or idea from a colleague, you must cite it fully in APA style)


(2) Data collection and analysis involving at least 2 categorical and at least 2 measurement variables on a topic of interest.  The “data collection proposal” sheet (see must be fully approved by me BEFORE you collect any data or you get no credit. This rule is to make sure that no one attempts to do something with an inappropriate topic/design or unrealistic scope, as well as models the process that researchers have to go through before they can begin a study.  The sooner you submit your proposal form, the sooner I’ll give you ungraded feedback (usually at the very next class), and the more time you’ll have to do your project (or make adjustments to your proposal and resubmit it, if required).  I recommend you start thinking about it now and aim to hand me your proposal form sometime in October.  There should be appropriate use of technology and contexts involving social justice or equity are especially encouraged for exploration.  You will do this as a team of 2 or 3 and there must be a single writeup submitted for the entire team.   Feel free to bounce more sophisticated ideas off of me, but the most common project here will be a survey of adults (attempt to get as many as 100, so that even if some refuse to participate, you’ll still have a decent number).  You must stay within these 4 rules:

a)       Data must be collected openly and recorded in such a way that respondents cannot be identified or linked to their answers if someone were to read your report or stumble upon your files.

b)       All individuals must be informed.   For example, if you do a written questionnaire or telephone survey, you should start with something like, “Good afternoon -- my name is _______ .and I’m a student in Dr. Lesser’s Stat 1380 class at UTEP.   Are you willing to participate in a 1-minute survey as part of my class project?  The survey will not be published, your participation and responses will be confidential, and your name or other identifying information will not be recorded.  Your participating is completely voluntary and you are free to withdraw at any time.  Do you have any questions?  Are you willing to participate?”

c)       In selecting people for your survey, you must avoid settings where you work and avoid choosing:  co-workers, relatives, animals, significant others, co- close friends, significant others of close friends, minors (people under the age of 18), prisoners, and representatives of any other “vulnerable” population (e.g., individuals who cannot read/understand informed consent).

d)       Your topic must avoid issues which could reasonably be expected to be highly personal, controversial or sensitive, such as sexual behavior, drug usage, or underage drinking.  But while you CANNOT ask about someone’s sensitive personal behavior (e.g., “How much beer do you drink?”), you might be able to ask about the topic from a society or current events perspective (e.g., “Do you think the drinking age in Ciudad Juárez should be raised, lowered, or kept the same?”).

The first page after the coverpage should be titled “Background” and should describe the general question of interest and explain why it is significant or important to you.  There should be a statement of what population you chose (and why) and describe what random sampling procedure was used (or why one was not or could not be used). The next page or two of the report should be titled “Results” and should include the results of your survey, with appropriate numerical and graphical summaries included. (Graphs must be appropriately drawn, sized, with axes labeled.) The next page or two of the report is titled “Discussion”, in which you make any interpretations or conclusions you can from your data, discuss any limitations of your data or method, discuss any difficulties or judgment calls you encountered and how you handled them, discuss what you might do differently next time.  The next page should be titled “References” where you acknowledge whatever help you may have obtained from any people or print references to do this project. The final page is called “Appendix” which should include a numerical summary or table of the data you collected.  It should be in enough detail that I could recreate a graph from it if I wanted to, but it should not have any names of people that were surveyed. 


(3) Reflection Paper that discusses your experience putting statistics knowledge into practice in the context of a designated appropriate service learning experience arranged by UTEP’s Center for Civic Engagement (to pursue this latter option, you should go ahead and directly contact CCE (Benedict Hall 103;; 747-7969).   Students completing this option will receive a certificate from CCE that will enhance your teaching portfolio or job application!  Your grade will be based upon both the paper and the completion of the service learning itself, using the formula R*(P+1)/2, where R is your grade (out of 100) on your reflection paper and P is the proportion of the service learning requirement that CCE reports to me that you completed (note:  P greater than 1 will be treated as 1 and P equal to 0 will be treated as -1).   The paper will be graded not for spelling and grammar (unless it’s so poor that I can’t tell what you’re trying to say), but for the quality of insight and depth of connection and reflection you have.   Below I will give you a list of questions that will help guide you as you write your paper.  In fact, I recommend that right after each training, meeting or working day of your service learning experience you should write down (e.g., in a journal) your reactions to these questions while they are fresh.  Then, when it’s time to write the entire paper, you will already have plenty of material to quote and synthesize as you describe the progression of your experience and understanding all the way up to your most recent thoughts.   Even if other classmates do the same service learning project, each individual must turn in her/his own paper.

What did you experience today?

What did you enjoy most about that experience and why?

What did you enjoy least about that experience and why?

Did the experience today teach you something new about yourself (e.g., as an underrepresented

person, as a learner, as a future teacher, as a citizen, etc.)?  If so, what?

Did the experience today teach you something about how data or statistical thinking can relate to

(or improve) the world or to the lives of people in this region?  If so, what?

Did the experience today teach you something about the way you may talk or teach about data

when you are a classroom teacher?  If so, what?

What would you do or expect differently the next time you do this?  Why?