Background and Context

Course History | Place in the Curriculum | Funding and Support
Introductory Statistics with Community-Based Projects, a course at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota.
Cindy Kaus, Associate Professor of Mathetmatics, Department of Mathematics.
Email: cindy.kaus@metrostate.edu
Phone: 651-793-1425

Course History

Metropolitan State University sent a team of four faculty members, 2 mathematicians, a biologist and a chemist, to the SENCER Summer Institute for the first time in 2006. Shortly after completing the summer institute, Cindy Kaus began working on developing Statistics I With Community-Based Projects. In the spring semester of 2007, Statistics I With Community-Based Projectswas offered for the first time. At the time of registration, students were unaware that they were registering for a course that would be different from the traditionally taught sections of Statistics I. Students learned on the first day of class that the course they had registered for would require them to do semester long projects. Some students expressed frustration with the format of the course, others were happy to have their grade depend on something besides exams and some students were indifferent. Overall, the students who were frustrated were only a few in each class. Another source of frustration for the students was the lack of examples of group projects for the students to examine. However, since this was the first time the course was being offered there were none available. In the second semester of teaching the course, examples from each stage of the group project from the spring semester were distributed to students and this made a significant difference.

Statistics I With Community-Based Projects was not offered in the spring semester of 2008 due to the mathematics department's need for the instructor to teach courses in other subjects. However, Cindy Kaus began working with an adjunct faculty member in the fall semester of 2007 on developing a version of Statistics I With Community-Based Projectsthat could more easily be taught by an adjunct faculty member. This version is comprised of mini projects with social issue themes. This course will be taught by adjunct faculty member in the fall of 2008.

One of the unexpected outcomes for students in offering the Statistics I With Community-Based Projects was the impact that completing significant projects in a course would have on their future career prospects. In two cases, students have attributed their success in obtaining jobs to the projects they completed in this course and to the recommendations (one oral and one written) given by the instructor. This is significant since in the instructors 11 years of teaching, she has never been asked for a recommendation from a student in a general education mathematics course.

Place in the Curriculum

STAT 201 Statistics I is a four credit course which meets the general education requirement for Goal IV: Mathematical/Logical Reasoning at all institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The course became a requirement for applied mathematics majors at Metropolitan State University in 2008. It is also a required course for any student majoring in any of the disciplines in the College of Management, Biology, Social Work, Nursing and Mathematics Teaching Licensure for grades 5-12. Many students outside of these disciplines choose to take STAT 201 to fulfill their Goal IV General Education requirement. There are two statistics courses which have STAT 201 as a prerequisite course; STAT 301 Regression Analysis and STAT 311 Analysis of Variance. Neither of these courses are required of any current major at Metropolitan State University.

Funding and Support

In the Fall of 2007, the SENCER team received two sources of funding which aided in the development of Statistics I With Community-Based Projects. The first source of funding was a SENCER NSF sub-award. The funds from this award were used to hold a workshop for faculty, both adjunct and tenure track, from multiple disciplines to inform them of the SENCER initiatives being carried out by the SENCER team. From this workshop, collaborations were put in place that aided in the development of the course. The second source of funding was the Initiative to Promote Excellence in Student Learning Grant from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. These funds went directly to funding the development of the course.