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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

AP Statistics students interview students, analyze response bias

Over the course of the past few weeks, it's probably impossible to have missed the multitude of students conducting experiments for a project in for AP Statistics teacher Jennifer Mantle’s classes. 

This annual project, which Mantle usually assigns in the fall, requires Mantle’s students to gather data by pulling out and interviewing random peers from other classes. This year, Mantle is teaching three periods of AP Statistics, so about 100 students participated.

The project’s purpose is to have students investigate how the results of a survey can be affected by the interviewee’s own biases. The three parts of the project consist of: a proposal, the actual experiment, in which students go around different classrooms and interview different people, and a final analysis and presentation about the results.

Pairs of students have to come up with their own questions to ask, with each pair trying to elicit response bias from their interviewees. This bias is found by analyzing the responses of different people who are asked versions of the same question, just with a different delivery. The topics for these questions can vary from a student’s favorite clothing brands to their views on capital punishment, although students are encouraged to ask more unique, outside the box questions.

“We’re allowed to choose our own topic, but they are subject to approval by the teacher,” junior Oliver Sun said. “If the teacher doesn’t approve it, then we are not allowed to do that and we have to revise it.” 

Students have have three to four weeks to finish the project, with two class periods set aside to go out and collect data. Posters for the project and the presentation are homework.

For students, the chance to not around sit in class and instead go out and interview people was a refreshing change from the usual routine.

“Doing the project is pretty fun,”  Sun said. “It’s kind of cool to have a class period where you’re not getting lectured but you’re gathering data instead.”

The project also serves to give students valuable experience that they can apply in the outside world. Students learn the difficulties of interviewing their peers and getting good data; in general, students become familiar with “the challenges of being a statistician.”

For Mantle, the biggest takeaway from the project is that data should not be taken at face value, but rather examined to make sure that it truly is correct. 

“I'm trying to instill the idea that data is everywhere and that we are exposed to so much data and statistics, but much of it is wrong or misleading,” Mantle said. “I want my students to leave my class feeling confident in questioning data and data sources with a keen eye.”

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