Some TIPS for success in this course

This is a course in which the mathematical skills acquired in the prerequisite courses are expanded upon, and applied to problems in Statistics. It is not a review of these skills, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. Students who did poorly in the prerequisite courses, or who don`t remember what they did there, should be prepared to revisit their notes from those courses.

Typically there is a sizeable cohort of students who do extremely well in this course, and in this note I will explain how they do it, and how you too can do it.


First a WARNING:  Some students enter this course thinking that mathematics is a body of facts to be memorized, rather than an exciting process in which to engage. Such students spend their time seeking out opportunities to watch others solve the problems posed in the labs and lectures, in the hopes that if they can only memorize enough answers then they will somehow be able to match them up with the right questions. This sounds ridiculous, and it is. If it describes you, then you should BAIL OUT NOW! Perhaps you would be happier in law school.

Now the GUIDE TO SUCCESS: One hundred percent of the grade in this course is obtained by writing out solutions to problems which arise in the lectures, or are posed in the labs. These questions are publicized well in advance – the tentative lists, consisting of about 150 problems, are available now.

Knowing the questions from which the exam questions will be chosen is a huge advantage, if you choose to make it so. The students who succeed don`t do it by magic – they do it by taking the only sensible route. After each lecture they solve, and write down solutions to, the problems which can now be done of the basis of the most recent lectures. They solve, and write down the solutions to, the lab problems. They attend labs, not to watch others do mathematics but to engage in the process themselves, and to pose any questions which might have arisen in their work. They are very frequently in my office asking me to read and check their solutions. Note that my office hours are `whenever I am in my office, or by appointment`- e-mail me if you want to be sure I am in.

By the time the exam comes around, these students have written up solutions to all the possible exam questions, in what they believe to be a perfect manner. They don`t attempt to memorize these. They don`t need to – they remember the process, they have seen the way the concepts flow from one application to another, and most of all they remember and relish the feelings of excitement at discovering these mathematical and statistical truths for themselves. (AND of course they look forward to showing their mates how clever they are – that`s part of the fun!)