May 23, 2022

The Blog of a Chronic Content Creator

Horrific Stats Homework

When I was an undergrad, due to an advising mistake, I took a harder stats class before taking the easier stats course (At UA the psych department offered stats, as did the statistics department – we had to take both Intro Stats and Psych Stats. I took Psych stats first). Because of this, by the time I got around to taking basic stats, I was pretty annoyed that I had to take material I already knew well. So I decided to have some fun with the class. I skipped class pretty often, and made up some truly horrific homework examples (as well as added a pretty good amount of snark to my homework). You know the type of problem you get to be creative with – they start “Give an example of a data set where one could calculate a Mean and Median”, invariably preceded by a bunch of benign examples having to do with the price of fruit, exam grades, etc…

My examples got bad enough that the graduate student teaching the course explicitly asked me to tone them down. What can I say – as a 19 year old, I could be pretty flippant, snarky, and other less-than-stellar adjectives. Today I probably wouldn’t have been as… detailed… in my examples.

Tonight, as I was thinking about our own undergrads at Centenary taking psych stats this summer, I dug up one of my old homework assignments, and found these choice quotes:

3.4 The Mean and the Median can only be calculated for quantitative measures (Because they relies on the values of its measures to have numerical significance).  The Mode can be Qualitative and quantitative.  For instance, if we asked bus drivers to run over little children, then rated the bus drivers on the job they did (I.e. how flat the corpse was, how loud the screams were, etc..) by grades (A,B,C,D,E) we would be using a qualitative scale. If 4 bus drivers got C’s, 1 A, and 1 E, our Mode would be C, our mode would be C.  On the surface, it appears that the median may be applied also, but this would require us to split C.  Since C wasn’t on a ratio scale (only an interval) it would be impossible.

Yea, I guess that was probably unnecessarily gory. At least I apologized with it right afterward:

(I apologize for the previous example, but as statistics is pretty dry stuff, I have to spice it up a bit)

I toned it down a little to just snark after that one.

b. Well Gee, the question asks if there are any outliers, and since it then says 2 sentences later “Which… changes by … when you DROP THE OUTLIER”.. I think (and this is just a hunch), they put an outlier in there….


(Sorry, more spice)




Yes, the outlier is probably 17,487.  I’ll drop that and get this for Median & Mean:

Toward the end of the homework assignment I apparently got tired of doing the same sorts of “plug and chug” problems over and over. So I wrote this.

3.24 (Ugh… not another one of these problems)… b. (See sarcastic remarks for previous problem) Yes, there is an outlier of 37,154.

There are more examples of punk homework examples as well, but you get the idea.

Now that I’m on the other side of the podium all the time (I was teaching part-time in 2002 at UA when I took this class), I look back on this and hope that it was received in the same way I would receive it (I’d be pretty amused).

However if it wasn’t, I’d like to apologize to the graduate student who was just trying to get her masters’ degree, and didn’t really deserve the school bus example!

(Funny story: This class was also one where the instructor decided to put stickers on the exams of students who got an A. Being that my last name starts with a W, the choice of stickers wasn’t as good when she got to my paper. One day, as she passed back exams, she got to mine, looked at it, looked at me and an expression of “Oh no, it’s that guy’s paper” came across her face. As she handed me the exam she said “I’m sorry, but I ran out of the good stickers and still wanted you to have one”. There sat a sticker reading “Good Try”, right above a score of 95 out of 100. Being snarky me, I just looked at her and said “That’s OK, I’ll try to get a 98 next time”. Oh to be 19 and a ***** again!)

(Nostalgic Addendum: The “good try” sticker on that paper was promptly peeled off and placed on the inside cover of my graphing calculator, where it is to this day in my desk drawer at Centenary!)