November 24, 2012

# Why real data is important in teaching

Proving that adding words to an algebra problem doesn’t automatically give it real-world context:

From Intriguing Mathematical Problems, Dover Publications, and Dan Meyer

Thanks, Textbooks adds: This brings up several more important questions:

• Who has a “favorite” orange?
•  How long have you had this orange that you’ve bonded with it so much?
• Who has an equation to calculate the weight of an orange?
• Is it your favorite because it happens to weigh nine pounds!?

(via)

[Other observations from Thanks, Textbooks  include:  I’m less concerned with the question, “What does the scale read?”  and more concerned with the question, “Why the hell are we lubricating a hamster?”]

Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. See all posts by Thomas Lumley »

### Comments

• Shane Field

As a current Statistics major student I love it when lecturers actually give me real data for real-world scenarios to play with!

I’m not always completely sure whether the data I’m given is fictitious or not, but I assume that if it is “real”, then a citation would be given. Unfortunately the data I am given in assignments and exams is often of the “real world” type but is fictitious. For example, in an assignment question about association rules, I was given data from a fictitious online movie rental service.

But then for an exercise on classification the fictitious scenario was done away with altogether, and I was given a synthetic dataset with non-descript predictors.

I think one can still learn with fictitious scenarios or synthetic data, but I just don’t think it’s as fun! And I think the role of a teacher is perhaps not only to educate but to try to show why they’re passionate about the subject in the hope that the student might become passionate also.