Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gold star!!

I gotta share...

I just helped an undergrad student who was tearing her hair out on a statistics assignment. And by god, I saw that light bulb that goes on when someone *gets it*. And wow- I put it there. Do you know how good that feels??

The assignment was really vague, from a professor who routinely gives vague assignments and seems unable to give specific and detailed instructions on how to accomplish the requirements. So, I showed her the public opinion polls in the Roper Center database, how to download the raw data, interpret the coding, all that.

But she couldn't get a grasp on what to do with all those numbers.

So, I started to give her possibilities.

What if you parse out just the males, above a certain income level, who voted in favor of the education proposition? Then, do the females. Are they different? How about comparing and contrasting with lower-income voters?

She didn't think that was enough analysis for this project. So, I proposed that she look at a Presidential primary poll, then a Gubernatorial one. Go out and find what their speeches said about education (i.e., spend more, spend less?). Does that correlate with how people voted? I.e, can you predict whether the education proposition passed by whether the candidate supported the same position?

That's when the light bulb went off. The student was so excited, she took my scribbles with her. (I tend to make concept maps with arrows and such.)

She kept telling me "You say it in English!!"

I'm just sitting here doing a happy dance in my chair. (quietly, because I'm still at the desk waiting for the next appointment...)

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