Happy Pi Day everyone!

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Contributed talks: Maths Education symposium

Cognitive style, spatial visualisation and problem solving performance
Ajay Ramful is working on the ARC project “Processing mathematics tasks” and his talk was on one of the aspects of that project. The C-OSIVQ questionnaire was used to assess cognitive style. The paper folding test was used to assess spatial visualisation. Tom Lowrie’s Mathematical Processing Instrument was used to assess problem solving. Correlations tended to be low in absolute terms, but with a sample size of over 700 students statistical significance was reached in a number of circumstances, indeed a correlation close to 0.5 in education research is apparently generally regarded as cause for celebration!

Facebook as a learning space
Sitti Patahuddin is also in the Maths Education Research Centre here at UC and she spoke about Facebook as a community of practice for teachers. Her study uses data from Indonesia. She used Statista, a statistics portal with data from 18000+ sources. She put up a post about dividing a whole number by a fraction and analysed the responses using NVivo.
Tracy Logan spoke about using data mining and secondary data analysis to achieve sustainable maths education research. She put up a diagram of the design and discussed much of the issues around, rather than specifics of packages and so on. The prospect of software to read microfiches of AMT data from he 80s was tantalising too – that’s my data they’ll be finding there!

Mathematical research at UC
Peter Vassiliou gave a personal perspective on research in mathematics. After some startling revelations about physicist Einstein and mathematician Minkowski he went on to talk about symmetry, geometry and physics – the three main planks of mathematical research at UC. He made. Good point about using maths doesn’t make you a mathematician – same with stats really.

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Inspiring mathematics and science in teacher education

Judy-anne Osborn and Kath Holmes came down from the University of Newcastle to give the keynote speech on this topic at UC’s Maths Education Symposium on 24 June. She spoke about the IMSITE project funded by the OLT. Maths should be compelling, not compulsory is the line that’s coming out of government at the moment. The IMSITE project uses Etienne Wenger’s theory of communities of practice, formalising the social aspects of learning. Judy-anne presented highlights from all six of the partner universities, ranging from databases of prosperous relationships to young (Year 10) mathematician research enrichment programs.

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Mining the Internet of Everything – Official Statistics in the Information Age

On June 23 the Canberra Branch of the Statistical Society joined with the Canberra Chapter of the Institute of Analytics Professionals Australia to hear Ric Clarke of the ABS speak. In this talk, he outlined some of the capability challenges of ‘Big Data’, particularly around the four V’s of velocity, variety, volume and veracity. Ric then presented some ABS initiatives to exploit new sources and types of data to better meet the emerging information needs of statistical consumers. In particular, these initiatives centred around three or four projects with acronyms like LEED, to do with linking, analysing and visualising massive, complex, interconnected data sets.

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The critical stance in IS research – the why and how of critical social theory and critical realism

Sue Nielsen from Griffith University spoke to the National Information Systems Institute at UC on 5 June. She raised a great laugh saying that PhD students should look worried, not be happy! She described critical realism as an “under-labourer” that facilitates engagement between disciplines. It seems to me that statistics fits in that category. On the other hand critical social theory has as its goal the improvement of the human condition. Well doesn’t statistics do that too!

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Go Red for Women

I was delighted to participate in “Go Red for Women” on 11 June. It was a fun way to show my support for research into heart disease which of course has many statisticians involved in design, collection and analysis of data.

Red for Heart 2015

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Aspects of lexically ambiguous words in Statistics

I couldn’t avoid it any longer – on 26 May it was my turn to speak at the monthly meeting of the Canberra Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia. My topic was the same as the one I used at the Australian Statistical Conference in July 2014, but no-one minded because I had such an awful timeslot at that conference that everyone was hearing the talk for the first time! I definitely felt I had a supportive audience, who were nonetheless keen to ask questions as we went along, clarifying points about the way the data was collected (it is SO hard to avoid self-selection, informative drop-out etc etc etc when surveying students!) I was able to use the longer time allowance to cover all aspects of the lexical ambiguity study done in collaboration with Peter Dunn and Rene Hutchins, including tutor perceptions student achievement and modelling the factors that impact upon student achievement.

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Multilevel analysis: techniques and application

This book by Joop Hox was loaned to me by a research student. Hox tackles a range of topics under the umbrella of multilevel analysis, including a really instructive graphical display of the random coefficient model in chapter 2. The very range of topics included, everything from longitudinal data to multilevel path models meant that my attention waxed and waned as the topics were of more or less interest to EM. I was slightly frustrated by the presence of computer package output without clear indications of where it had come from: much of it was from HLM and MLWiN, with R receiving honourable mentions. I was pleasantly surprised to find a leaf write-up of the interpretation of Nagelkerke’s Rsquared for logistic regression – not many authors seem to bother to do that! The one weak chapter I thought was the one on modelling correlated errors with dummy variables … But it may be that this is simply another way of writing down a MANOVA.

I hope my student can bring other books that are similarly interesting and well-written. This one has a website at www.joophox.net

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Food security, access and quality among food charity programs serving the homeless in the ACT region

Sarah Helton is about to start her Honours thesis on this proposed topic, also aired on 12 May. She’s going to look into the food charities, analyse the nutrient content of their meals, and look at how that might influence health status. There’s Food Works Professional software to do the meal analysis. The bulk of her project will be qualitative rather than quantitative, but I really enjoyed hearing about the interesting projects that are out there to do in the Nutrition discipline.

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Risk knowledge, motivations and use of protein supplements among adolescent athletes.

A second Honours in Nutrition final presentation took place on 12 May, by Gavin Whitehouse. He had primary data from 72 team sports players and 19 athletes aged around 17. Sixty percent reported protein supplement use, mostly for muscle recovery and on average once a week. Online purchasing (nearly 1 in 5 reported this) was a particular focus of the study. His survey was validated by a U.S. Masters student, and the quantitative work he presented was purely descriptive.

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