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Encouragement to take part in the ASA Statistical Project Competition-- Homeschooler Jeremy Keenan WON 1st place last year!
Carole Matheny, AP Statistics Online Teacher, 10/4/2011

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: It's always really encouraging to hear about the dedicated work and effort of our AP Online students really paying off-- and often this is quite literally! I was delighted to hear this story from our (wonderful!) AP Statistics teacher, Carole Matheny, about the 1st place win of one of her past students in this excellent project competition. I think this is such a great example of encouraging a student to really go with their interests and stretch to develop a major contest entry, demonstrating how this can often reap real benefits. And I don't mean only the actual prize and special recognition this student won-- but the longterm benefits of knowing he could develop such a major project, follow-through on all the many details, figure his results, write up a major paper and develop graphs of his findings, and get everything in final form by the deadline of June 1st. I'm sure that knowing he could accomplish this will really help him feel confident to try the next major challenge he takes on-- he'll know he's the sort of student who can really shoulder personal responsibility in a meaningful way. I also think this article points out the unique benefits of having your child take part in one of our Advanced Placement Online Classes-- your child might become inspired to really pursue a unique major project that goes beyond the scope of the class itself. Also, besides the project competition, there is also a poster competition (entries due April 1 each year), open even to young elementary age students-- check out the website for the American Statistics Association, as they have lots of examples of past winning entries. Even if you opt not to take part, could be quite fun to look over these posters with your kids!


       [Don't worry-- just read on and you'll see why this is the illustration for this article!]

It was May, 2009, and since AP testing was over, my AP Statistics class was also finished for the year. It was that time of year when most students think about their summer vacation or maybe if they’re graduating, about the college they will soon attend in the fall. Several students wrote thank you notes to me for teaching the class and others left encouraging notes to future students about my class. So I wasn’t surprised when I heard from the youngest student in the class, a ninth grader, Jeremiah. Having enjoyed the class, he wanted to continue learning about statistics. Surely four years without working with statistics would be too long of a break from the subject and he might not remember the material when he needed it in college. Besides, he found he really enjoyed statistics and wanted to learn more. That is something I really enjoy about working with homeschool students-- their interest to learn, inside or outside the classroom.

In our email correspondence I pointed Jeremiah to several online courses he might pursue in statistics and to several possible statistical competitions.  AP Statistics is similar in scope to a college level statistics introductory course. Being new to online courses, I had heard other PA Homeschoolers AP Online teachers mention how they often had continued contact with past students and how much they enjoyed hearing from them and keeping up with their accomplishments or learning how they found the course useful in their college studies. Helping Jeremiah find these additional statistical courses and competitions was having a similar affect upon me. It also might be quite helpful to future students.

It wasn’t long before Jeremiah decided that he would enter the American Statistical Association Statistical Project Competition.  ASA is a large community of statisticians and each year they promote statistics by conducting poster and project competitions for children in grades K through 12.  The entries are judged by committees of statisticians and teachers who award cash prizes, calculators and certificates.  

Jeremiah decided to run a unique taste test. Living in China, he was familiar with both Chinese made Coke and through visits to the States, US made Coke. Could people tell the difference between the two? Could they identify one as made in China and the other as made in the U.S? If they could distinguish between the two, did they prefer one over the other?  With questions in hand, Jeremiah could start his study.  Conveniently Jeremiah’s family was headed to the states for the summer, permitting Jeremiah to obtain the US soda and begin his data collection. He just needed to transport sufficient Chinese soda with him to the states for the first part of his data collection, and then transport US soda back to China for the second half of the study.  Being fluent in Chinese and having the US made Coke, Jeremiah was able to collect data when he returned to China. Starting with fascinating questions, a well-designed study, and data in hand, Jeremiah proceeded to analyze his results and finally write the project paper.

As Jeremiah’s AP Statistics teacher I agreed to be his mentor, to answer questions he might have as he planned his study, review his analysis and conclusions and advise him if he was on the right track. What a fascinating topic AP Statistics permitted Jeremiah to investigate!  Our correspondence ramped up a bit in May of 2010, one year after Jeremiah’s investigation began, and he submitted the project before the June 9th deadline. 

One morning in late June while checking email I received an email from ASA.  I immediately sent an email to Jeremiah letting him know that he had won the first place award in the grade 10 – 12 category!  You can read Jeremiah's winning entry Coca-Cola's Secret Formula--Internationally Variable?  here:

ASA runs this competition yearly and students in grades K – 12 are eligible to participate. For more information and to see past poster winners and read the project winners in the other grade categories visit:  here:   http://amstat.org/education/posterprojects/index.cfm

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