Statistics in a Modern World
STAT 800

Fall 2016, CRN 10941, 3 credits
Department of Statistics
University of Pittsburgh

Time/Place MWF 10:00-10:50, Lawrence Hall 106
Instructor Dr. Nancy Pfenning
Office Posvar 1808
Website .
Phone 412-521-8349 (home, if urgent, before 10 pm)
  412-624-8336 (during office hours)
Office Hrs (Start 2nd week of classes) Thurs 10:00-11:45
  additional hours by appointment
Course Assistant Kevin Nelson
  (start 2nd week of classes) Thursdays 12:00-2:00 Posvar 1821 (in Stat Department) EXCEPT exam weeks, during which Kevin will hold hours Tuesday from 11:00 to 11:50 (Sept 20, Oct 18, Nov 1, Nov 29) instead of Thursday. Additional times may be available by appointment.
Tutors Contact the Academic Resource Center 648-7920 for free tutoring by undergrads or visit their website .


  • Print up and try all the problems in Practice Final and bring to lecture Wednesday, Dec. 7; here are the solutions.
  • Print up and try all the problems in Practice Exam 4 and bring to lecture Monday, November 28; here are the solutions.
  • 10/30/2016: Read coincidence stories of our class members.
  • Late October: print up and try all the problems in Practice Exam 3 and bring to lecture Monday, October 31; here are the solutions.
  • Early October: Print up and try all the problems in Practice Exam 2 and bring to lecture Tuesday, October 18; solutions
  • Early September: Print up and try all the problems in Practice Exam 1 and bring to lecture Monday, September 19; click here for solutions
  • Monday, October 17 is Fall Break and no classes meet that day. Instead, all Monday classes are shifted to Tuesday, October 18 and classes for Tuesday are cancelled that week.


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 (or lecture slides) 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.

Homework Assignments are to be handed in to me in lecture on the Fridays when they are due. Be neat and attach extra sheets to show your work if necessary. Some of the assignments are long; don't attempt to complete everything the night before they are due! NO LATE HOMEWORKS will be accepted. Answers should not be "shared" with other students---see info on academic integrity linked at the end of this document. PLEASE NOTIFY ME AND THE GRADER IF YOU INTEND TO WORK TOGETHER ON SOME EXERCISES. Solutions are available for viewing afterwards in my office hours, on request.

EXTRA CREDIT assignments are featured regularly in the Lecture slides. These are always due in the lecture directly following the lecture in which they are assigned.

  • You can use the class survey data to complete some of the extra credit exercises (see Lecture Notes). Anonymous Survey Questions were completed the first day of class; use this data set: 800studentsurvey2016.txt, a tab-delimited text file. The extra credit work can be done by hand or with MINITAB; to downnload the survey file into MINITAB, click on the link, then type ctrl A to highlight it, ctrl C to copy it, start MINITAB and type ctrl V to paste it. Minitab help is available in Posvar 1201; for hours of operation see schedule but avoid times when it's been reserved (schedule to be posted on the door). You may also refer to my own handout MINITAB 17 Basics.
  • 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 2 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 2 two-sided sheets of notes, and a calculator, are permitted.


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

    Course Grade

    90-100% A; 80-89% B; etc. Plusses are assigned to the students at the top of each grade range and minuses to the students at the bottom. None of us can know in advance if an individual student will be a "borderline case"; doing your best throughout the semester can help you to optimize your chances for the best possible grade.

    Textbook (optional)

    Jessica Utts: Seeing Through Statistics, 3rd ed., Duxbury Press


    Powerpoint Lecture Slides: Print in advance of lecture, bring to class, fill in Responses. Or access 1-per-page pdfs for online notetaking.

    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 the course assistant for help.

    Note to Students with Disabilities: If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services, 216 WPU (412) 648-7890, as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course. See their website

    Academic Integrity Every student is responsible for understanding and abiding by the University's code for ethical behavior, as outlined on this website:

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