Math 143
Probability and Statistics
Spring 2011

Course Home Page

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Course Description

Randall Pruim
office: North Hall 284
phone: (616) 526-7113

Time & Location
Section B Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 1:30-2:20, in North Hall 276

Office Hours
My schedule is still being determined...

Internet Resources

I will maintain an email list of all students registered in this class and will use it to distribute information and reminders of various things pertaining to this course. If you prefer to read your email from an account other than your Calvin student account and do not have it set up to forward automatically, send me email with the email address you prefer.

Please check your email daily. You are responsible for any information communicated via email.

Web Pages
In addition to this home page, I will also maintain a list of web resources pertaining to this course. You are responsible for any information appearing on the course web pages. Items I have prepared and maintain online include

For quick access to these and other resources, see the navigation bar at the top of this page.

Other Important Information

See me
If you are having difficulty with any portion of the course, do not hesitate to see me. Do this as soon as possible, certainly well in advance of any deadlines (like tests) so that we can work to fix the problem.

The required text for this course is
The Analysis of Biological Data by Whitlock and Schluter

Grading will be based on the following approximate weighting:
15% Homework, Labs, etc.
60% 3 Tests (see calendar for tentative dates)
25% Final Exam (Mon, May 16 @ 9:00am)

Tests should be taken when they are scheduled. I do not generally offer make-up, alternate or late tests. Instead, if you miss one test (for any reason) or if your final exam score is better than your worst test, then your final exam score will be substituted for that test.

Modern statistics is done using modern technology. There are several options available, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros Cons
calculators handy, familiar difficult to enter data or deal with large data sets, limited graphing capabilities, no record of work
Excel on most computers, familiar, easy to enter data not designed for statistics, too flexible (easy to organize your work poorly), limited statistical and graphical tools, some important statistical methods are missing or difficult to use, limited record of work, poorly designed interface for some applications
R designed for statistics, very powerful (you won't outgrow it), free (you can put it on any computer), can keep complete record of work, excellent graphics tools, easy to customize and automate analyses, many add-on packages (including many for biology applications), available via the web or stand-alone limited GUI, requires a little more effort at first, strange name
StatCrunch desinged for statistics, great user interface, good graphics tools, available via the web limited feature set, no record of work, need to be connected to internet

So what should we use? At the request of several biology professors, our primary tool in this course will be R. R also happens to be the tool I use for nearly all of my statistical analyses.

We'll make only limited use of Excel for two reasons: (1) it is "hit or miss" -- it does some things well, but other things poorly; (2) it is not as helpful in developing good habits of mind as a dedicated statistics package is.

There are, by the way, a number of other statistics packages. But most of them are expensive, so they aren't viable options for this course. The good news is that once you use one statistics package, it is usually not too difficult to migrate to another tool if you need or want to.

Special Circumstances
Occasionally there are special circumstances that require that the rules and guidelines above be adjusted for a particular student. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the student to inform me of the situation as soon as possible, so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. This includes, but is not limited to, students with documented disabilities.

This page maintained by:
Randall Pruim
Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Calvin College

Last Modified: Friday, 04-Feb-2011 13:27:29 EST