Todd Swanson and Jill VanderStoep

A college-level statistics textbook whose co-authors include Todd Swanson and Jill VanderStoep of the Hope College mathematics faculty has won a second national award and will soon be reaching even more students in a new version developed for high school Advanced Placement classes.

“Introduction to Statistical Investigations” received the 2018 Daniel Solow Author’s Award on August 3 during MathFest 2018, the annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), held in Denver, Colorado.

 The Daniel Solow Author’s Award recognizes the author or authors of undergraduate mathematics teaching material, with the primary criteria for selection being the material’s impact on undergraduate education in mathematics and/or the mathematical sciences.  The presentation citation praised not only the book for its innovative approach, but the authors for sharing their methodology and results.

“The ‘Introduction to Statistical Investigations’ curriculum focuses on helping students think statistically,” the citation notes.  “It does this by using a spiral approach to teach the statistical investigation method, using simulation-based methods to introduce statistical inference while focusing on the logic and scope of inference.  The curriculum integrates exposition, examples and explorations, and uses freely available applets and real data from genuine studies.”

“The authors have led over 30 national and regional workshops for more than 1,000 faculty over the last four years, including e-workshops, which are archived and freely available for any to use,” the citation says.  “Additionally, the authors have led efforts to document the impact of their curriculum in peer-reviewed research.”

“Introduction to Statistical Investigations” was published in the fall of 2015 by John Wiley and Sons of Hoboken, New Jersey.  While traditional textbooks first walk students through basic concepts and then build up to the deeper applications, “Introduction to Statistical Investigations” introduces the deeper concepts right away and then focuses on filling in students’ understanding as they apply the concepts in various contexts.  The textbook’s focus on real data taken from research studies in a variety of fields helps students understand how scientific research is done and prepares them to transfer what they are learning in the classroom into a better understanding of issues and events that affect them and others.

“Introduction to Statistical Investigations AP Edition,” published this spring, features content written specifically for the Advanced Placement statistics course, and includes AP-exam tips and AP-style exercises throughout.  It also contains a chapter on preparing for the AP exam, two full-length practice exams and a comprehensive set of 300 author videos.

Both of the “Introduction to Statistical Investigations” books follow the Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education published by the American Statistical Association in 2007.  The ASA calls for instructors to emphasize statistical literacy and develop statistical thinking, use real data, stress conceptual understanding rather than mere knowledge of procedures, foster active learning in the classroom, use technology for developing conceptual understanding and analyzing data, and use assessments to improve and evaluate student learning.

The approach taken by the books was piloted at Hope in 2009, with additional implementation at multiple colleges, universities and high schools as the 2015 text was developed.  It was initiated at Hope in conjunction with the creation of the college’s statistical teaching and research computing laboratory through a 2008 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Swanson is an associate professor of mathematics and VanderStoep is an adjunct assistant professor of mathematics.  The lead author of both books is Dr. Nathan Tintle, a professor of statistics at Dordt College who was on the Hope faculty as development of the books’ approach began.  In addition to Tintle, Swanson and VanderStoep, the co-authors of “Introduction to Statistical Investigations” are Dr. Beth Chance of California Polytechnic State University; Dr. George Cobb, an emeritus member of the Mount Holyoke College faculty; Dr. Allan Rossman of California Polytechnic State University; and Dr. Soma Roy of California Polytechnic State University.  They were joined in writing the AP Edition by Ruth Carver, mathematics chairperson at Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania.

In June 2017, “Introduction to Statistical Investigations” received one of seven Most Promising New Textbook Awards from the Textbook and Academic Authors Association.  In addition, an article about the pedagogical approach, co-authored by Tintle, Swanson and VanderStoep with Hope colleague Dr. Vicki-Lynn Holmes and 2010 Hope graduate Brooke Quisenberry, won the “Best Paper Award” for 2011 from the Journal of Statistics Education during the 2012 annual international Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) conference.

External support of the development of the teaching model, dissemination and assessment included a two-year, $181,478 award and a three-year, $550,099 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).