Augsburg News

News Archives - 2003

Learning to read the numbers

April 2003

Portrait of Milo Schield.Two years ago, business administration professor Milo Schield received a $500,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to develop statistical literacy as an interdisciplinary curriculum in the liberal arts.

In terms of student learning, becoming statistically literate means gaining understanding of the use of statistics as evidence in an argument. In an age of numbers and technical information, it means helping students to develop a comfort level in the use of statistics in much the same way they become comfortable using words.

As part of the Keck grant, Joel Best, author of Damned Lies and Statistics, visited Augsburg in November to meet with faculty and students in several departments and give an invited talk.

Students reported that while Best's book takes a somewhat cynical look at the use of statistics, it helped them become more aware of what they read. "Within 24 hours of reading the book, I found myself questioning statistics being thrown around by the current crop of [political] candidates," said student Jim Humbert.

Schield is collaborating with faculty in several departments to develop teaching materials to include a greater focus in the statistics curriculum on reading and interpreting data. Schield has also collaborated with the Royal Statistical Centre for Statistical Education at the University of Nottingham-Trent. Peter Holmes, a senior researcher there, visited Augsburg in late March to review Augsburg's curriculum.