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Monday, April 22, 2013

AP ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE LAB INTRODUCES FACTORIAL ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE

With the introduction of advanced placement courses into national science curricula,  many students are now exposed to college-level content in the high school setting.  This has permitted inclusion of statistical inference into the classroom- something that has historically been all but absent from high school science.  Especially in a scientific world in which statistical analyses are rapidly expanding in sophistication and complexity, it is essential that prospective scientists be exposed to statistical thought early in their careers.

The factorial analysis of variance falls under the heading of classical frequentist statistics.  It has been  used for many decades in fields like agricultural research to investigate effects of experimental treatments on growth, health and productivity of crops.  Although it offers a reasonably sophisticated approach to examining data, the computations necessary to conduct it are well within the range of most high school students.  Hence, it provides a useful tool for introducing students to statistical concepts.

A lab investigation developed by Bird Conservation Research, Inc. for the AP Environmental Science curriculum, Tomato Growth, combines a traditional agricultural experiment with factorial analysis of variance.  It introduces students to experimental design and statistical concepts like null and alternate hypotheses, probability, controls and interactions.  It demonstrates how statistical tests can be used to verify the existence of trends observed in graphical analysis of data.

Statistical analysis of experimental data has long been a mainstay of agricultural research.


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