Statistics Professor Dick De Veaux gets a nice shout-out from Andrew Gelman.

Math is like music, statistics is like literature

Dick De Veaux gave a talk for us a few years ago, getting to some general points about statistics teaching by starting with the question, Why are there no six year old novelists? Statistics, like literature, benefits from some life experience. Dick writes,

We haven’t evolved to be statisticians. Our students who think statistics is an unnatural subject are right. This isn’t how humans think naturally. But it is how humans think rationally. And it is how scientists think. This is the way we must think if we are to make progress in understanding how the world works and, for that matter, how we ourselves work.

Here’s the talk
. I recommend it to everyone who teaches statistics.

Me too. I try to incorporate much of this advice in my own syllabus for a Williams class. Maybe I’ll send in another application for 2008.

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