History and Statistics: Patterns of Family and Community Life
in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century France

Robert Schwartz History
Harriet Pollatsek Mathematics

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Evaluation report for fall 1996

This course, designed and taught by Robert Schwartz, in consultation with Harriet Pollatsek, was offered in the spring of 1996 and then again in the fall of 1996. While the spring section had only 5 students, the fall section had 13. (Positive student reactions to the first offering may have contributed to the higher enrollment.)

In both offerings, students completed questionnaires at the beginning and end of the course. They reacted to 19 statements (responding from 1 = agree strongly to 5 = disagree strongly) in addition to answering free response questions asking for words evoked by quantitative terms. On the pre-test, students were also asked to list three questions they thought they could answer with an attached table of data. (A copy of the questionnaire is included.)

Overall the initial profiles of the two sections showed some differences, although groups were too small for statistical significance. The spring students were more likely to prefer openended questions (mean 1.4 versus mean 3.3 for "I like questions that are open-ended"), less likely to find math easy (mean 4 versus mean 3 for "Math is easy for me"), and more
likely to find writing easy (mean 1.8 versus mean 3.5 for "Writing is easy for me").

In both the spring and fall offerings, in every case in which means shifted by more than .1, the shifts were in the desired direction. Detailed analysis of changes in individuals (paired t-tests) was done for the fall section only. Even after grouping related statements, only one shift of attitude was statistically significant: on "I like questions that are open-ended," the mean dropped from 3.3 to 2.7 (p = .04). Other notable shifts were on "When I'm reading and I come to a table of data, I skip over it" (mean 2.6 before, 3.4 after, p = .10) and "I like wrestling with hard problems" (mean 3.2 before, 2.6 after, p = .14).

In addition to these changes, shifts of at least .3 on means (in the desired direction) occured on "I like writing," "I like math." "When something is hard for me, I give up," "Writing ability is something you're born with, 11 "Math ability is something you're born with," and "Reading ability is something you're born with."

No formal assessment was made of the free-response items, but the answers on the pre and post-tests were very similar. The questions students of offered as ones answerable with the table of data were quite sophisticated on the pre-test, so they were not asked to do that a second time.


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Copyright © 1999 Mount Holyoke College. This page created by Math Across the Curriculum and maintained by Jennifer Adams. Last modified on August 8, 1999.