Statistics—worse than a poke in the eye?

Peter Petocz, Anna Reid


The majority of students studying statistics are not majoring in that subject: they are taking a service course in statistics as part of their studies in another discipline to prepare themselves for a career where statistics will be a professional component tool. Many of them find such a course difficult or even distasteful. A recent advertisement put up at Macquarie University by someone offering tutoring services began: ‘If you think statistics is worse than a fork in the eye, then you need help!’ We have previously reported on conceptions of statistics held by statistics major students (Reid and Petocz 2002). In this paper, we extend that study by looking at the views of statistics held by students taking service statistics courses in various areas of science. We also investigate their expectations of their use of statistics in their future studies and profession. The students’ views were obtained using an anonymous, open-ended questionnaire, and we have analysed the content of the responses using our previous theoretical framework. Based on the results obtained, we discuss teaching and learning approaches and materials that can help such students to engage with the ideas of statistics and to develop an appreciation for its possible uses in their future professional lives.

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