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Mr Epidemiology

No, I'm not a skin doctor

Month

September 2013

Sabremetrics and Math: How sports can teach statistics

Statistics.

Math.

Mental arithmatic.

Do those words scare you? If they do, you’re in good company. Mathematical anxiety is a well studied phenomenon that manifests for a number of different reasons. It’s an issue I’ve talked about before at length, and something that frustrates me no end. In my opinion though, one of the biggest culprits behind this is how math alienates people. Lets try an example:

If the average of three distinct positive integers is 22, what is the largest possible value of these three integers?
A: 64
B: 63
C: 33
D: 42
E: 48

Too easy? How about this one:

The average of the integers 24, 6, 12, x and y is 11. What is the value of the sum x + y?

A: 11
B: 17
C: 13
D: 15

I do statistics regularly, and I find these tricky. Not because the underlying math is hard, or that they’re fundamentally “difficult,” but because you have to read the question 3 or 4 times just to figure out what they’re asking. This is exacerbated at higher levels, where you need to first understand the problem, and then understand the math.*

Last week, my colleague Cristina Russo discussed how sports can be used to teach biology. Today I’m going to discuss a personal example, and how I use sports to explain statistics.

One of my main objectives as a statistics instructor is to take “fear” out of the equation (math joke!), and make my students comfortable with the underlying mathematical concepts. I’m not looking for everyone to become a statistician, but I do want them to be able to understand statistics in everyday life. Once they have mastered the underlying concepts, we can then apply them to new and novel situations. Given most of my students are athletically minded or have a basic understanding of sports, this is a logical and reasonable place to start.

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Featured Interview with the Queen’s University School of Graduate Studies

Friend of the blog Sharday Mosurinjohn recently interviewed me for a profile on the Queen’s University School of Graduate Studies website. The first paragraph of her (very flattering) interview is below, and follow the link provided for the whole thing.

Atif Kukaswadia – AKA Mr. Epidemiology – is here to help you understand the science that’s important to your life. As a PhD candidate in Queen’s Department of Public Health Sciences and a science writer for the Public Library of Science (PLOS) blogs network, Kukaswadia is immersed in creating and reporting on scientific knowledge of direct relevance to the public, and he wants to share the wealth.

Kukaswadia moved to Canada in 2002 with his family from the UK. He started his undergraduate degree in Biology at Carleton University, where he focused on ecology and studied caterpillars, butterflies and mud shrimp. The thing Kukaswadia most enjoyed about ecology was how “everything was interconnected – you never study one squirrel in isolation. You study the whole environment and how elements of the environment interact.”

While he enjoyed Ecology, he realized that studying butterflies and caterpillars wasn’t for him. So he started a second degree in Health Psychology. Using his background in ecology, he began looking at humans the same way he had been trained to look at non-human animals and, specifically, at how the environment affects humans. This combination of interests led him to Queen’s, and the Department of Public Health Sciences.

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APHA Get Ready Day: How preparation can save lives (including your own)

Today, the APHA is encouraging you to be prepared with their annual Get Ready Day! Across the country, people will be preparing for disasters, and encouraging people to consider how they are ready for any disasters that might happen.

The typical image that comes to mind when people think of getting ready for natural disasters is the “Y2K bunker,” where people have months of canned goods, water jugs, and matches, preparing for an apocalypse where we live in a Walking Dead or Mad Max style wasteland, struggling for survival. These individuals may or may not be sporting a beard and wearing camouflage gear in the middle of suburbia.

APHA Get Ready Logo

But that’s not what we’re talking about (although similar principles apply). A disaster could be anything ranging from a fire, a flood, a terrorist attack, or something more localized such as a storm taking out power in your neighbourhood, or a tree falling down on your house. These sorts of events will happen, and being prepared can help you and your family stay safe throughout.

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Now You Feel Old: 17 Facts about the Class of 2017!

Fall is in the air. The frosh are back on campus, chanting, screaming, causing general havoc and every so often it’s like you’re crossing the Bruinen, and next thing you know, you’ve been swept up and now you’re suddenly climbing up a football upright covered in grease and surrounded by engineers when you just were trying to head home.

Note: This is a factual representation of how frosh groups move.

In the spirit of Frosh week, I thought I’d share some facts with you. Since this will be the Class of 2017, here are 17 things that happened the year the frosh were born – 1995!

1. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chrétien

2. TLC released their most successful single: Waterfalls. It spent seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was their second #1 hit following 1994’s Creep. It still remains very sound advice for life, especially if you’re a salmon.

3. Daniel Alfredsson played his first season with the Ottawa Senators, winning the Calder for the 95-96 season and scoring 61 points in 82 games. He went on to play 1178 games with Ottawa over 17 seasons, 14 of those as Captain, making him the longest serving European captain in NHL history. He then retired. Yes. He didn’t sign with another team in the same division. He retired.

*sobs uncontrollably*

4. Deep Blue Something release “Breakfast at Tiffany’s!” The song is now known as the thing everyone says when asked “What do you want to do for breakfast?”

5. Oasis releases their most recognizable hit, Wonderwall in 1995. By 1996, every guy ever has learnt how to play it on guitar, and now if you’re ever in a group of more than 4 guys and a guitar, The Oasis Law ™ states that at least one will try and play Wonderwall and encourage you all to join in.

See facts 6 through 17 on Gradifying!

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