Statistics in a Modern World
STAT 800

Fall 2001, CRN 15291, 3 credits
Department of Statistics
University of Pittsburgh

Time/Place MWF 1:00-1:50, Langley A221
Instructor Dr. Nancy Pfenning
Office Cathedral 2710
Phone 624-8729 (statistics office, leave message with Diane)
  521-8349 (home, if urgent, before 10pm)
  624-8336 (during office hours)
Office Hours MWF 9:30-11:30
  additional hours by appointment
Stat Lab Cathedral 435, hours to be announced
Teaching Assistant Jenny Zhu
  Office hours WWPH 2L23 Tuesdays 1:00-4:00


  • Dr. Pfenning's Office Hours for Finals Week: Mon.Dec.10 and Wed.Dec.12 from 9:00 to 11:00. Jenny: Tuesday Dec.11 from 3:00 to 5:00.
  • 11/30/01 Practice Final handed out; click here for solutions
  • 10/26/01 Read coincidence stories of our class members! or coincidence stories of last year's class!
  • 11/30/01 Exam 4 scores averaged 71%; currently overall class average is 81%. Click here for solutions
  • Survey data from current year, survey.txt, as a tab-delimited text file with no blank entries; see download instructions.
  • 10/31/01 Exam 3 scores averaged 123 out of 150, or 82%; click here for solutions
  • 10/15/01 Exam 2 scores averaged 121 out of 150, or 81%; click here for solutions
  • 9/16/01 Exam 1 scores averaged 126 out of 150, or 84%; click here for solutions
  • 9/12/01 Homework 1 due; scores averaged 41 out of 50, or 82%


This course introduces statistical reasoning to a diverse audience. The main goal is the understanding of basic statistical principles so that the student can understand research reports involving statistics and applications reported in the media. Statistical reasoning will be taught through the use of examples. An important part of the course will be a non-technical discussion of controlled or randomized experiments. The subject matter will include many examples from the Health and Social Sciences.


MATH 0031 (Algebra) or equivalent. No Computer Science background is needed. You will need a calculator; it doesn't matter what kind as long as you can operate it.


Read the chapters and articles to be covered in Lecture before each class. Try to do as many chapter EXERCISES as you can on your own. Some solutions are given at the end of the book; use these to check your work. This should be done after each lecture in order to keep on top of the material, which is by nature cumulative and CANNOT BE LEARNED BY CRAMMING before exams.

Selected EXERCISES are to be handed in before the exam on the corresponding material. Be neat and attach extra sheets to show your work if necessary. For bookkeeping purposes, it is much easier for the grader to correct several chapters' worth of Exercises at once. For learning purposes, it is much easier for you to answer the assigned Exercises as soon as the corresponding material has been covered in lecture. The assignments are long; don't attempt to complete everything the night before they are due! Hand them to me in lecture on the due date. Absolutely NO LATE HOMEWORKS will be accepted. Answers should not be "shared" with other students---otherwise, credit must also be shared. PLEASE NOTIFY ME AND THE GRADER IF YOU INTEND TO WORK TOGETHER ON SOME EXERCISES. Solutions will be put on reserve in the Math-Stat Library (4th floor Thackeray) on the lecture day following the due date.

EXTRA CREDIT will be given for relevant newspaper or magazine articles contributed by students. Write at least a paragraph relating the article to topics covered in class. Hand these in to me (Dr. Pfenning) and I may feature them in our exams!

The four IN-CLASS EXAMS are based on material covered in lecture and your textbook. Problems will be similar to the assigned Exercises but at times more comprehensive. They are closed-book, but you are allowed to bring and refer to two two-sided sheets of notes. Calculators are also permitted. Your grade will be based on the best 3 of your 4 EXAM scores (plus homework and final exam). There will be NO MAKE-UP EXAMS. For rare exceptions, I may at my discretion administer an exam to an individual prior to the scheduled time.

The FINAL EXAM will be based on all material covered in the entire course. It is closed-book, but two two-sided sheets of notes, and a calculator, are permitted.


4 Homeworks 200
Best 3 of 4 Exams 450
Final Exam 350
Total 1000

Course Grade

90-100% A; 80-89% B; etc. Plusses and minuses are used for borderline cases and to ensure fairness and consistency.


Jessica Utts: Seeing Through Statistics, 2nd ed., Duxbury Press

Lecture Notes

Available for copying in Math/Stats library 4th floor Thackeray

Note: The material in this course is cumulative in nature. Thus, it is important not to fall behind in your reading or assignments or you will find yourself lost. If you are confused, see me or your TA for help.

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