« A letter to reporters on the economy | Main | Numbersense Pros: Interview with Dean Baker »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I am interested in hearing more about this in a stats class. Besides your book, are there any other resources you could recommend? I can see lessons in this style going over very well in an AP stats class in high school.


Hi Glenn, I'm hoping that others might chime in. There are few useful materials right now because we are far from recognizing the liberal arts component of statistics. Many textbooks contain "case studies" which are no more than long examples stripped of real-world complications, not in the style of HBS cases.
If you read the article I linked to at the end, it gives a history of how the case method got adopted at Harvard, and one of the prerequisites is developing a body of suitable cases. I suspect that business cases will be hard to come by because businesses don't want to publish their data. (Also, it is hard to fake multidimensional data.) I suspect that it may be easier to develop cases from nonprofits or other arenas.


I think this is a very good auxiliary method. But it can't replace some "classical" teaching.
Here's an example: I first need to explain the concept of linear regression, before students can use it in case method style.
This teaching could include the mathematics behind the parameter fitting, the R-commands necessary (my students don't know "~" for formulas before they learn lm), the formula behind Rsquared and it's interpretation, what a correlation is anyways, ...
I doubt students should learn this on their own - teaching time is too valuable for that. Let's get to the application of statistical methods!


Rwc: We have to distinguish between teaching data analysts and teaching literacy. I think the case method works for both but for the former set, classical teaching is needed as well.

The case method as practiced at Harvard relies heavily on group learning. What I didn't cover is the study group. Four or five students get together every morning to discuss the cases before they go to class. Among the study group, it is usually wise to have both analytical types and qualitative types so the knowledge is shared.

Such group learning is easier for professional schools in which students have a wide variety of backgrounds. For say college courses, I'd recommend including handouts and exercises that students should work on before class but using the class time for case discussion rather than details of formulas.

I'd suggest that an intro stats class along these lines would be much more engaging and effective than the standard one.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Get new posts by email:
Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
Visit my website. Follow my Twitter. See my articles at Daily Beast, 538, HBR, Wired.

See my Youtube and Flickr.


  • only in Big Data
Numbers Rule Your World:
Amazon - Barnes&Noble

Amazon - Barnes&Noble

Junk Charts Blog

Link to junkcharts

Graphics design by Amanda Lee

Next Events

Jan: 10 NYPL Data Science Careers Talk, New York, NY

Past Events

Aug: 15 NYPL Analytics Resume Review Workshop, New York, NY

Apr: 2 Data Visualization Seminar, Pasadena, CA

Mar: 30 ASA DataFest, New York, NY

See more here

Principal Analytics Prep

Link to Principal Analytics Prep