The 1994 Summer Course for Teachers: CHANCE Written by Robert Hesse Each summer, the Geometry Center hosts a two-week course for teachers. This year's course, titled CHANCE, is a probability and statistics college class taught by Laurie Snell at Dartmouth College. Instead of teaching the theory and then giving the students examples, Laurie has students read current news items that involve probability and statistics and are asked questions pertaining to the articles. Some of the recent examples used in class were whether major-league baseballs are juiced or not, the reliability of DNA testing, and grade inflation at colleges over the past thirty years. The goal of this class is to "make students better able to make informed and critical judgements about news reports of chance issues that affect their daily lives." (CHANCE Pamphlet) Because the class topics depend on current events, there is no course outline. CHANCE instructors also use perennially popular issues such as polls, trials, and drug testing. In the summer course one morning, the CHANCE team (Peter Doyle, Laurie Snell, Joan Garfield, Mark Foskey and Linda Green) had the participants read an article about a study on the effects of taking daily supplements of vitamin E or beta carotene or both. Along with the article the participants were given a question sheet. They were asked to interpret a percentage the article claimed, to use statistics to verify a claim, and to tell the instructors whether they should continue taking doses of beta carotene and vitamin E. The students worked in groups of four or five discussing possible answers to the solution. After about twenty minutes of the discussion the instructors called on the groups and had them respond to the questions. Many of the participants and the instructors went beyond the original questions and debated different approaches to the problems. In one of the more interesting discussions, the instructors compared a point in the beta carotene article with the tossing of a fair coin. The related coin-tossing question was this: What is the approximate probability of getting 474 or more heads when a coin is tossed 876 times? Several of the groups approached the problem differently. The instructors showed a way of answering the problem using a computer; they had a laptop run a thousand simulations of flipping a fair coin 876 times. In those thousand simulations, only four times did 474 or more heads appear. They also used statistical theory to show that such an incidence is unlikely. The combination of using technology (which gave one a strong feeling of what was going on) along with statistical theory (which confirmed the feeling) sparked interest in the material and aided in appreciating the power of statistics in everyday life. The instructors approach to teaching probability was fast-paced and gripping. Both the participants and the instructors were caught up in the discussion. Although the participants were all practicing mathematicians, I believe that this method can work for many students. Laurie believes that even if one could not teach a class in this format the entire time, it would be a good supplement to an already existing probability and statistics class. A second component to the summer CHANCE course is the use of computers. Participants use programs to analyze data and run simulations. They also learn how to access and use the Internet system so that they could retrieve articles and databases useful for projects. One of the more useful files participants are able to access via Internet is the CHANCE database. This database contains articles from newspapers, raw data to use for projects, and eventually some probability simulation programs. For example besides containing the newspaper articles used in the summer course, the database contains statistics on the 1993 SAT scores. There is also a BiWeekly chance newsletter that abstracts current news that involves statistical and probability concepts. This newsletter can be obtained by e-mail by sending a request to dart.chance@dartmouth.edu or can be read on the Chance Mosaic found on the Geometry Center Mosaic (http://www.geom.umn.edu/) in their Online Document Library.