Sunday, October 22, 2006

Well, gee whiz, turns out I understand stats after all.

I don't pay attention in statistics. Because the class is in a computer lab, I believe I have even blogged from that class more than once. It's not that the professor isn't great, and it's certainly not that I just understand all the material so there's no need to take notes and follow along. I am just not an auditory learner. I can hear a lecture, but unless I write it down, it's gone soon thereafter*. I can read a book, but without a highlighter or pen in my hand, marking important passages and taking notes, none of it sinks in. So, I'm not really a visual learner. I must be a tactile learner. I have to write things down, work out the problems, before they finally sink in. When trying to think, I have to physically draw a map "x-->y," etc.

All this semester in statistics, I've done the homework by carefully following the steps laid out in the book. I didn't understand what I was doing, I was just following instructions, plugging things into the proper equations. But in prepping for the midterm, I actually sat down and did the problems in the book; I drew the areas under the normal curve, felt it and visualized what it meant; I thought about the equations and broke them down into their parts to figure out why the equations are what they are. This may sound simple, but to me, statistics has always been a plug-and-chug kind of event. You memorize some rules and get an answer.

I now feel like I understand why I'm getting the answer, the logic behind statistics. In undergrad stats, we could have a notecard with all the formulas we'd need for the exams. And we could use our textbooks (yes, it was that pathetic). I could continue just blindly following the formulas laid out for me. But, this semester, this stats class, we have to memorize all of the formulas. Obviously, the easiest way to memorize formulas is not to memorize them at all but to understand them. So, that's what I'm doing.

And I'm surprising myself that it is, for the first time, actually making sense.

But I won't get too prematurely excited. The midterm is on Tuesday.

*I realize the response to this is, "well, write down lectures during class." My response to that response is that I can't. Not with stats, anyway. It takes me time to sort through and figure out things. I can write down what the instructor is saying, but I'm just writing down numbers, letters, and phrases that mean little to me, and soon I mentally check out and either become really drowsy or start doodling on my notes. I suspect this is why I had a tendency to skip stats classes in undergrad (still got A's, though, so it speaks to the degree to which 1)these classes were ridiculously easy and 2) my learning in math-y things depends entirely on my own study time, classtime is useless). I don't skip in grad school, you will be relieved to hear.

No comments: