AP Statistics Overview and Student Testimony – by Sarah Bjorgaard

What is “AP Statistics”?

AP Stats is an introductory, college-level course in statistics. Therein, you will learn how to collect (through experiment or survey), organize, analyze, and interpret data. There is much (much!) more involved than you might think! The emphasis in the course is on understanding and interpretation –you do not need to memorize formulas and your calculators will do the arithmetic for you, but you do need to know which formula(s) to apply and how to interpret the meaning of the results. You will do a lot of writing as you explain and defend your analyses and interpretations.

What can you do with statistics?

A lot! You will never need to ask “how does this apply to real life?”, as the entire course is answering just that question. Understanding statistics can help you interpret information, separate good hypotheses from logical fallacies and deceptions, and make data-driven decisions. This is especially important today, not only because employers are increasingly looking for these skills, but also because the Church needs her children to support her positions in a world that claims to listen to science; studies illustrating the importance of traditional marriage to children are examples of the important part that the field of statistics plays in the culture war.

Which university majors and careers require stats?

Many university majors, including non-technical ones, require at least one course in stats; numerous majors require more. Remember, a high score on the AP exam can earn this credit for you. Statistics is an important component of a surprising portion of careers –some careers, like actuaries, rely heavily on statistics daily; others, like sales managers, incorporate statistical insights when making decisions. Sometimes, having a background in statistics can make you “stand out from a crowd” because even a basic or intermediate facility in the field can prove useful to employers. I have experienced this first-hand!

Who should take AP Statistics?

AP Statistics will not be easy–those wanting to take it should be prepared to read and think a lot, ask many questions, and work hard. In addition, students need to have a solid grasp ofAlgebra II. That being said, AP Statistics is more widely accessible than AP Calculus, and those who meet the criteria and are willing to work are encouraged to consider enrolling. AP Stats can be taken concurrently with Pre-Calculus or AP Calculus if you wish, or on its own; keep the workload in mind when deciding which route to take.

Student Testimony

1. What you think is the most important thing(s) you have gotten out of taking stats

The most important thing I have gotten out of taking AP Statistics is the ability to evaluate a situation both quantitatively and qualitatively. There is a subtle balance between the two, and one must be cautious and exact about how to set up a study or experiment and evaluate the findings. One can apply this skill to anything in life, because the key to understanding the world around us is being able to look at the big picture while also focussing on the important details. 

2. How the experience compares to other math classes you have taken

I would say that AP Statistics offers a unique experience, because it directly involves tangible, real-life relationships. While AP Calculus, a study of continuous change, focuses on derivates and integrals, AP Statistics takes a more aerial perspective of mathematical relationships. Also, Calculus focusses on the function of materials, while Statistics focusses more on the behavior of people. I absolutely love both forms of mathematics, but I cannot deny that Statistics holds a special place in my heart, due to its humanistic approach. 

3. What to expect rigor-wise (stats is typically considered to be less rigorous than calculus, for example, but you can chime in with your own experience)

After taking AP Calculus AB, I (foolishly) assumed that AP Statistics would be a breeze. However, within the first week of classes, I found that I was already being challenged in ways I never had been in previous mathematics classes. Practically every homework question involved paragraph-long questions, and the method of solving each question required extensive critical thinking. Therefore, I find that both the struggle and reward of Statistics are that it forces the student to approach a mathematical question with attention to detail and to work with it extensively in order to come to a confident conclusion. So, although Although AP Statistics does not have the level of conceptual rigor of AP Calculus, it does involve an extensive process of measuring, studying, and analyzing data. 

4. How you see yourself using stats in the future

The greatest lesson that AP Statistics has taught me is the importance of being able to critically analyze data, the source of the data, and the process by which the data was obtained. Faulty processes can lead to erroneous conclusions, which can be especially dangerous for society. On the other hand, reliable processes lead to confident conclusions which can better inform society. Therefore, I see myself using statistics in my daily life for the rest of my life. Statistics is everywhere and has a strong influence on how people think. An individual who knows how to handle and analyze statistics can be confident that he or she will advance on the road towards truth with a 100% confidence interval!

Sarah Bjorgaard graduated with an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics, High Honors, from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2010. Wanting her employment to in some way be connected with the Church, she then completed a Master’s of Education while simultaneously teaching in a Catholic high school in Nebraska for two years; there, she witnessed the importance of a thoroughly Catholic environment in the formation of young people – and the damage that is done when Catholic schools fail to provide that environment. After completing her degree program and discerning that she should return to Canada, she moved to British Columbia in the summer of 2012, where she taught high school mathematics. In BC, she met the man who would become her best friend and husband (and the cause for her strange-looking last name!). Sarah and Ryan married in 2014, and now have three children. She teaches AP Statistics and AP Calculus at Kolbe Academy.