“Communities that Don’t Bowl in the Fog” (Contexts, Winter 2009)
is a great article to use when teaching students about community indicators and similar statistics.  Below are some questions and activities that can be paired with the article.

1)    Community indicators summarize important information in a single statistic. Can you think of other statistics that are commonly used to represent aspects of groups or nations? What information is conveyed in these statistics? What is left out?

2)    What are the benefits of viewing an entire community as a whole? Are there drawbacks as well?

3)     The authors mention “community well-being” often.  In your opinion, what indicators should be included in the definition of community well-being? Are some more important than others?  Can you think of other aspects of well-being that might be more difficult to measure?

In-class activity:

Information needs to be both relevant and implementable for communities and their leaders. Find information from one of projects mentioned in the article to put together a one-page advisory memo on people in that community for one of the following groups: activists calling for a Hispanic community clinic; a multi-national company thinking of moving its headquarters to the city; or a school district considering a proposal for a new elementary school for students with disabilities.

MuseScore passes 40.000 downloads in June 2010

If undergrads were asked to create a list of the most terrifying things at college, statistics would surely be near the top.  Many students, even in sociology, dread taking any class that mentions the word “statistics” in the title.

But, statistical methodology is an invaluable tool that can be used to explore the social world, and finding ways to illuminate complex concepts and connect the math to students’ daily lives is key.

Sue Hodge recently shared some great resources with us that might make this task a little easier:

ICPSR and SSDAN are partners on two projects to improve the quantitative literacy of students. One of the projects is, a website of resources for faculty and instructors to teach social science concepts through the use of data. It is not exclusive to sociology, but there are many resources for sociologists.  In addition to classroom resources, the site has current news articles that use data to explain a happening or some other news, such as the recent growth enjoyed by Netflix. Very often these articles are accompanied by a chart or table which can be helpful for faculty looking for easy ways to have students practice these skills, and sometimes, they illustrate the incorrect use of data.