You Don’t Have to Fear Your College Statistics Course
The specific topics your college statistics class will cover depend on whether you’re taking it as part of a major that requires higher mathematics, or whether you’re taking it to satisfy a math requirement in a major that does not deal extensively with mathematics. If you’re taking a basic introductory statistics class, you should know basic algebra and should understand fractions and percents. You won’t be relying on geometry, trigonometry, or calculus in most introductory classes. You will most likely cover introductory probability, odds, chance, and statistical distributions (such as the “bell curve”). If your statistics class is required for a hard science major (like physics), engineering, or a major in mathematics, it will require knowledge of basic calculus.
Applications in the Sciences
The biological and physical sciences rely on statistics heavily due to the use of scientific studies that attempt to explain real-world situations through laboratory experiments. By learning statistics, students in the sciences are able to more carefully judge scientific studies by interpreting the statistics that accompany the studies. Anyone who plans to go into the medical sciences will need a solid understanding of statistics in order to correctly interpret studies made on small numbers of people and to apply them in real-world settings.
Applications in Engineering
Engineering students generally don’t have as much difficulty with their statistics classes because they usually have a strong grounding in mathematics going into college. However, statistics classes tend to have a different classroom “feel” than the other mathematics courses required for engineering majors. With courses like calculus and elementary differential equations, the focus is on learning mathematical techniques. But with statistics courses, not only must the mathematical techniques be learned, but learning to interpret the results is a very important part of the course as well.
Applications in the Humanities
Humanities majors don’t encounter statistics as much as other academic disciplines do, but statistics definitely have a place in the humanities. For example, a history major interpreting election results over a period of time will need to understand the differences between the statistical “average,” “median,” and “mode,” and will need to be able to spot trends in mathematical data. Similar skills may be required from college students going into careers like social work and education. Interpreting the results of educational tests, for example, requires an elementary understanding of statistics.
How to Succeed in your Statistics Class
Succeeding in your college statistics course requires that you attend every class unless you have a good excuse, and that you complete and turn in all assignments on time. It is also very important not to get behind on reading or assignments, because your reading, assignments, and classroom work all reinforce the concepts you’re learning, and help you avoid having to “cram” for tests. If you find you don’t understand concepts you encounter in class or in your reading, speak up. Your instructor may be able to spend time with you individually to help you catch up, or you may be able to enroll in an on-campus tutoring program to bring you up to speed.
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