Teaching Statistics, eh?

Constructed and maintained by Augustin Vukov.  Please email me with any feedback you may have.


General lecture tips

Notes on Lecturing   The Lecture Method   10 teaching tips   The Large Lecture Course   Delivering a Lecture 

Activated lectures

Techniques of Active Learning     Beating the Numbers Game     Quickies during lecture    Throwing a change-up at lecture    An active learning case study

Special topics

Encouraging civil behaviour in large classes

Broad resources

McGill Online Teaching and Learning Resources are nicely organized, alphabetically by topic


Historical tales & tidbits worth telling in class
Gossett at Guinness – brewing beer and t-tests. I like to tell this tale as in text by DeVeaux et al, below, accompanied by my own somewhat speedier computer simulated samples, with tally of results showing a long tailed distribution. 

John Tukey had a way with words too

Sir Ronald Fisher biographical notes

Florence Nightingale – the passionate statistician

Or check biographies at Statisticians in history and MacTutor History of Mathematics archive


Statistical Humour
Galley of Statistics Jokes    Profession Jokes     Science Jokes     The Canonical List of Math Jokes

Personally, how these people can make fun of the such powerful techniques like the analysis of variance method used in one-way anova, two-way anova, multi-way anova, and latin boss-anova completely eludes me!


Spice up your lectures with some Video Case Studies

Against All Odds: Inside Statistics - The popular Annenberg video series, containing actual case studies in documentary format, interspersed with traditional statistics lectures. You can spice up lectures by inserting some of these case studies.   Check out my recommendations

CHANCE Lecture Video Series 

Computer software

(F = free; B = abbreviated version available at reduced price bundled with various texts)

Minitab statistical software – my choice – powerful and easy to learn.  Version 14, just out, has some nice improvements.   B

SPSS has many purchase/lease/size options available.   B

JMP statistical software is an SAS product, for Macintosh, Windows, and Linux.  An intro user’s guide is at the Chance website.   B

The R Project for Statistical Computing - R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics (similar to S).  Not menu-driven.    F

StatCrunch (formerly known as WebStat) – web-based software, bearing some resemblance to Minitab, that does quite a lot (alas, only one-way ANOVA and no multiple comparisons)   F


Textbooks – recommendations/reviews

Introduction to the Practice of Statistics by Moore & McCabe – The book that set the contemporary standard for teaching introductory statistics, with its strong emphasis on practical data-oriented thinking and concepts.  Pushes the limits at times, e.g. adding a new supplementary chapter (on CD) on bootstrapping in 5th ed.  Strong exercise sections with varied, thoughtful questions.  The Electronic Encyclopedia of Statistical Examples & Exercises and other useful resources (quizzes, applets, supplemental solved exercises) may be found at the publisher’s web site or on the text CD-ROM. On the negative side, some say it is too verbose, and directed toward a few elite schools. Multi-factor ANOVA and multiple regression are only lightly touched on.  An abbreviated version of the text is also available.

Stats – Data and Models by Deveaux, Velleman, Bock – This book has much of the practical, data-oriented flair of the Moore/McCabe book, but with some additional pedagogical features and humour.  Several different versions of the text are available.


Multi-media interactive courseware

Active Stats is a multimedia approach (video, simulation, animation, stats package) to learning Statistics, which includes the content found in a typical introductory statistics course.  Also available in Excel, JMP, Minitab and SPSS versions.

CyberStats is a complete online stats course, including text, interactive applets, testing facilities, computing software, course management system, created by some talented people (Jessica Utts et al).  Suitable for on-campus, distance-learning or self-paced. 


Classics & Interesting books:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte – the classic on principles of graphic design, with great examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly

Statistics – A Guide to the Unknown edited by Judith Tanur et al – collection of essays describing important applications of statistics and probability in many fields

The Cartoon Guide to Statistics by Gonick & Smith – presents the basic concepts, very accurately, but in a unique and pleasant format


Sample multiple-choice questions

SticiGui sample test questions

STA220 Final Exam 2001 has 30 questions from the 2001 final exam in an introductory Statistics service course at University of Toronto


Educational applets


Interactive histogram - See the histogram change as you vary the class width (Old Faithful data)

Histogram explorer - See statistics change as you vary the shape of the histogram



Regression by eye - Guess the correlation and regression line, then compare with true.

Putting Points - Click to add points, see the regression line, correlation, and residual plots change

Least-squares - Vary the line or the points, to change the sum of squared residuals, visualized as squared boxes


Sampling distributions:

Sampling distributions – choose or draw a population, choose a statistic, choose a sample size, see samples one at a time, or 1000’s at a time – Wow!

The quincunx – a visual expression of the Central Limit Theorem


Probability simulations:

Let’s Make a Deal  - switch doors or stay put?

The Birthday Problem – how often will we find matching birthdays in a group?  Or here.

The Cliff-Hanger – random walks can be dangerous 

Collecting animal cards – how many WebFlake boxes to collect all the prizes?

Rolling dice - choose the number of dice, then roll ‘em



Confidence Interval Applet - Simulate and count how many Confidence Intervals cover the mean

ANOVA applet has one-way and two-way interactive ANOVA visualizations


A variety of applets/applet links may be found at

The Rice Virtual Lab – lots of good applets here, good discussions too

Java Applets at ISDS at Duke University – applet links organized by topic

Statistical demonstration applets - links to various sites with applets, well organized and categorized by topic

Data Sets on the web, that may be useful for examples, test questions, etc

The Data and Story Library (DASL) is an online library of data files and

stories that illustrate the use of basic statistics methods. Includes a search engine.

StatLib-Datasets Archive – over 100 data sets from various sources (data and descriptions)

CHANCE Data Sets  - small collection of data sets, from recent events

JSE Data Archive has data sets with accompanying articles discussing possible uses

Data Sets from the Exploring Data website, with analysis suggestions

Statistical Data Sets from UmassAmherst, organized nicely by statistical topic


Other sources of data (government, official agencies. …)

Statistics Canada – check out their Canadian Statistics and Products and Services

The Data Web is a collaboration between the U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control including a special browser for searching and accessing datasets from a variety of surveys

US Bureau of Labor Statistics 

WHO Statistical Information System

U.S. Dept of Agriculture Economics and Statistics System has several hundred searchable reports and datasets

FedStats is a gateway to statistics from over 100 U.S. federal agencies

Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI pages have U.S. crime data and statistics 

U.S. Energy Information Administration has comprehensive and historical data on energy production, consumption, prices, and trade (select Featured Publications or Historical Data)

National Center for Education Statistics provides a compilation of statistical information re American education

The Baseball Archive has tons of baseball statistics, including salary data

Statistics in the News

CHANCE News abstracts current events in the news that use concepts from probability or statistics, with discussion questions, links to the article and other related resources.

Also try the newspapers, like

U of T Bulletin research news  e.g. Trials under fire and Multiple therapies

Toronto’s Globe and Mail Science & Health

New York Times Science & Health links



CHANCE Magazine – jointly published by the American Statistical Association and Springer-Verlag, showcases the use of statistical methods and ideas in the social, biological, physical and medical sciences, and is accessible to a broad audience. Useful for case studies, student reports/projects, etc.  Some articles are available online.

Journal of Statistics Education, an online journal, has some interesting papers with ideas and approaches that may be of interest to post-secondary educators



Andrew Gelman’s Statistics Blog


Online texts

The Little Handbook of Statistical Practice 

HyperStat Online Textbook 

Statistics at Square One 


SticiGui - Statistics text and tools for internet and classroom instruction with a graphical user interface (including sample tests)

Engineering Statistics Textbook - engineering oriented, but good stats coverage


Web sites with general resources

The Chance web site contains all sorts of useful resources

Rice Virtual Lab in Statistics

Exploring Data  - secondary school oriented, but with some varied and useful resources, including good data sets

Classroom demonstrations/activities/investigations

Birthday matches: are there any matches in your class?

Drawing random samples and examining sampling distributions – using your students

P-values illustrated for Wilcoxon test using playing cards

Coin spinning: Is the probability of head equal to 0.5?

Sampling distributions and estimation error using jelly beans/marbles/beads/etc

Quincunx - bring one to class, let students drop the beads, examine results

Miscellaneous links

Gallery of Data Visualization - The Best and the Worst of Statistical Graphics  (including material from Tufte’s book, mentioned above)
Simpson's Paradox explored
Jeff's Applets - Games and Markov Chains
International Conference on Teaching Statistics - ICOTS 7, July 2006, Brazil