Statistics grows as key college and career skill

National demand grows for students with the skills to fill data-intensive jobs
By: | Issue: December, 2015
November 6, 2015

Statistics instruction has become integral in K12 math curricula thanks to a push from the Common Core and a national demand for students with the skills to fill data-intensive jobs.

Districts provide more courses that teach students how to analyze data and integrate statistics across subjects, says Jessica Utts, incoming president of the American Statistical Association.

Although the Common Core is relatively new, K12 statistics courses began growing in the mid-1990s, Utts says. In higher ed, bachelor’s degree enrollment in statistics programs has doubled since 2009.

“The exponential growth in the kinds and amount of data available has lots of companies realizing that data science is beneficial, and looking for people trained in that,” Utts says. “People are realizing that statistical literacy is an important component of being a well-educated person and is relevant to daily life.”

‘A worthwhile endeavor’

Ipswich High School, part of the Ipswich School District located 20 miles north of Boston, began offering AP Statistics three years ago. The district also turned its statistics elective into a math class that counts toward graduation.

The course covers describing data sets and hypothesis testing, with a focus on real world applications. Each year, 85 students, out of 560, take either AP Statistics or the elective.

“I notice an increase in motivation and engagement when students study stats, because they recognize that it’s very real,” says Colleen Werner, the math department head at Ipswich High School who spearheaded the new courses. “No one asks ‘When will I use this?’ because every day I can bring in examples of where you see statistics in the newspaper. It’s very apparent that it’s a worthwhile endeavor.”