Measured Thinking: Principles
of Quantitative Reasoning
Interdisciplinary Studies 100-02
Olin 111, x4379
Tuesday/Thursday, 1:15-3:00, Olin 102
This course addresses one of the signal features
of contemporary academic, professional, public, and personal life: a reliance
on information and arguments involving numbers. Given this, we need to be able
to evaluate quantitative evidence thoughtfully and critically, and to employ
quantitative skills to their best advantage to contribute to society. This seminar
is designed to help you strengthen these abilities and to learn more about the
role of quantification in contemporary discourse.
In this course, we will work together to identify
general rules or principles that may help guide our understanding and evaluation
of a wide variety of claims about the world. Some of what it will take to do
so will require a modest introduction to statistics and research methodology--and
we will pursue that background when necessary--but most of what we need will
involve sharp and attentive thinking about how quantitative information is generated,
summarized, evaluated, and represented. What I hope this course will show you
is that developing the habit of thinking intelligently about quantitative claims
is vitally important, not that difficult, and even highly enjoyable.
A benefit of taking this
seminar is that you will be learning about quantitative reasoning without the
pressures associated with standard grading. You will pass this course
as long as you attend and participate in the seminar regularly, and complete,
with due diligence, the assigned readings and required projects. I will say
more about the projects in class, but they will involve writing about quantitative
information and revising that writing. To help you in this process, we will
also have the services of a course writing assistant, Andrew Knoll ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
Best, J. (2004). More damned lies and statistics. Berkeley: University
of California Press.
Porter, T. (1995). Trust in numbers. Princeton: Princeton University
Tufte, E. (1997). Visual and statistical thinking. Cheshire, CT: Graphics
Walsh, A., & Ollenburger, J. (2001). Essential statistics for the social
and behavioral sciences. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- Tuesday, 9/14: Why study
Steen, L. Importance of quantitative literacy, pp. 27-32.
- Thursday, 9/16: Quantitative
knowledge. [Numbers We Ought to Know:
Paulos, J. Innumeracy: Examples and principles, pp. 6-12.
Best, J. More damned lies and statistics, pp. 1-7.
- Tuesday, 9/21: Common
confusions about summarized numbers.
Best, J. More damned lies and statistics, pp. 26-37.
Walsh, A., & Ollenburger, J. Essential statistics, pp. 33-46.
- Thursday, 9/23: Thinking
critically about data in public discourse. [Quantitative Claims in
Best, J. More damned lies and statistics, pp. 91-169.
- Tuesday, 9/28: Designing
informed and informing graphics.
Best, J. More damned lies and statistics, pp. 42-62.
Tufte, E. Visual and statistical thinking, pp. 27-53.
Walsh, A., & Ollenburger, J. Essential statistics, pp. 17-29.
- Thursday, 9/30: Numbers
web project. [Numbers we ought to know web site]
- Tuesday, 10/5: Project
3 project initiation.
- Thursday, 10/7:
- Tuesday, 10/12: Compared
to what? Evaluating chance and effect size.
Egan, J. Love in the time of no time, pp. 66-71, 124-128.
Abelson, R. Statistics as a principled argument, pp. 1-11.
Walsh, A., & Ollenburger, J. Essential statistics, pp. 55-72.
- Thursday, 10/14: Sampling
Best, J. More damned lies and statistics, pp. 7-25, 63-90.
Walsh, A., & Ollenburger, J. Essential statistics, pp. 77-90.
- Friday, 10/15, Convocation: Donald Saari,
Elections! But Do We Elect Whom We Really Want?
- Tuesday, 10/19: Statistical
Walsh, A., & Ollenburger, J. Essential statistics, pp. 97-108.
- Thursday, 10/21: Summarizing
research literatures; Ethics in quantification.
American Psychological Association, Ethical principles of psychologists.
- Tuesday, 10/26: Correlation
Best, J. More damned lies and statistics, pp. 37-42.
Walsh, A., & Ollenburger, J. Essential statistics, pp. 213-231.
- Thursday, 10/28: Papers
- Tuesday, 11/2: The intellectual
culture of quantification.
Porter, T. Trust in numbers, pp. vii-48.
- Thursday, 11/4: No class
- Tuesday, 11/9: Economic
Porter, T. Trust in numbers, pp. 49-72.
- Thursday, 11/11: Cost-benefit
Porter, T. Trust in numbers, pp. 148-189.
- Tuesday, 11/16: Communities
of science. [Final Class Meeting]
Porter, T. Trust in numbers, pp. 193-231.