One of the important parts of my “Statistics Sports and School (SSS)” course will involve students creating a research question that can be answered with data collection, and designing a plan to properly collect data. Anybody who has taught statistics understands the challenges of having kids narrow down their wonders to a question that can be answered with the limited amount of time, resources, focus, and energy available to them.
To put myself in their shoes, I designed my first mini experiments with a tinge of “sportiness” to them. Hopefully future questions will involve me doing something where I don’t sit on my ass.
Here was my first research question: Can I toss individual playing cards into a bowl (from about 5-6 feet away) better with my dominant(left) hand than my non-dominant (right) hand?
I challenged myself to come up with a question in about 20 minutes. I liked this one because:
- The question is authentic ( I think I’d be better with my left hand, but I’m not totally sure: I throw frisbee better with my right hand, and tossing cards is like throwing a frisbee. …but is that the same type of dexterity?)
- The question involves some reasonable complexity (lots of variables impact whether a card goes in: practice, mild winds, degree of focus, fatigue, distance to the target)
- The question required systematic, but achievable data collection (I messed this experiment up about three times before executing all the steps and recording data with a reasonable degree of consistency)
- The question allowed for many approaches to analyze the problem
- The question reveals more questions to pursue
- The plan to collect data could be executed in a reasonable about of time (about 2 hours, including screw-ups)
Here was my protocol:
1. I took a deck of plastic poker cards (plastic ones bend less, and are less likely to crease, tear, or be distorted my normal weak than paper ones).
2. I shuffled the 52 cards to determine which hand would throw the card in each trial. Black = left hand. Red = right hand.
3. I sat down on the couch with my deck, and threw each card, aiming for a large, deep salad bowl with a diameter of about 14 inches.
4. I recorded the following variables after each trial:
X1: the hand I used (l = left (dominant) hand. r = right(non dominant) hand.
X2: Did the card land in the bowl (y=yes, n=no)
X3: trial number (1 = first throw, 2 = 2nd throw, etc…)
X4: round number (1 = first round of 52 cards, 2= 2nd round of 52 cards. After tossing the entire deck once, I had to collect all the cards, check my work, reshuffle, and re-seat myself after the first set of 52 throws was completed. I wanted to account for the fact that conditions affecting my success rate might be different in the two rounds.
If you convert this into a .csv file, you can easily import this into Fathom, or your favorite tool for data analysis. I’m not a huge fan of Excel for statistical analysis, but hey, knock yourself out.
Challenge to the reader: What can you do with this?
Maybe the folks studying data and Statistics at PCMI would be interested in playing with this data.
Are you convinced that this evidence shows that I am a more accurate card thrower with my left hand than with my right hand? Support with the existing data, please.
I’d love to hear what you would do to answer this question with my data. I’d also like to know what other questions/ wonders that crop up.
More on my analysis in a bit.
… of course, to increase your accuracy, you can always do this.