Unit 11: Hypothesis Tests

Home | Contact us   
  Main Concepts | Demonstration | Teaching Tips | Data Analysis & Activity | Practice Questions | Connections | Fathom Tutorial | Milestone 


Data Analysis & Activity

Activity 1

Why do we need the t-distribution? This short activity uses simulations on the TI-83 calculator to see why we use another distribution (t instead of z) when we are performing inference on a sample mean and the standard deviation is unknown (as is always the case in practice). It could also be done on the TI-89 calculator or on Fathom, though the instructions here are particular to the TI-83.

We will first simulate a sample of three women's heights, then we will compute and standardize the sample mean assuming the standard deviation is known. The following line simulates the sample of heights, taking the mean to be 65 inches and the standard deviation is 2.8 inches.

randNorm(65, 2.8, 3)

"randNorm" is found on the TI-83 under the math-->prb menu. You will need to scroll right after simulating the sample to see the entire list of three. If you press "enter" again and again, the same command is executed repeatedly, so you can easily simulate many samples of three.
To compute and standardize the sample mean, enter the following two commands, separated by a colon. The colon is the alpha function of the decimal key.

randnorm(65, 2.8, 3)-->L1 : (mean(L1)-65)/(2.8/root(3))

The "-->" represents the "store as" function, located over the on button. mean( ) is found under the 2nd-list-math menu.
If you enter this command and then press enter several times, you will be simulating standardized sample means. We know from theory that the distribution of this statistic should be the standard normal, so you should be seeing numbers that are mostly between -2 and 2. It would be very unusual to see a value larger than 3 in magnitude.

Now we will repeat the simulation using the sample standard deviation instead of 2.8.

randNorm(65, 2.8, 3)-->L1:(mean(L1)-65)/(stdev(L1)/root(3))

The command stdev( ) is found under the 2nd-list-math menu.

If you enter this command and then press enter several times, you will be simulating standardized sample means using the sample standard deviation. You should see a difference between this simulation's results and the last one. Values larger than 3 in magnitude are not nearly so uncommon as before. This is the reason we have the t-distribution. It has heavier tails than the standard normal and takes into account the extra variability that comes from not knowing sigma.

If you do this in the classroom, it is interesting to have students say out loud any values they get that exceed 3 in magnitude. It will happen very infrequently with the first simulation, but quite frequently with the second.

It is interesting to stop when you get a very large value of the statistic and then go look at the contents of list L1. Generally, you will see three numbers that are all somewhat far from the mean of 65 inches, but the three numbers will be close to one another, producing a small sample standard deviation. The numerator of the statistic is largish, the denominator is small, hence the large t-statistic. Such an occurrence in real life with a real sample would be misleading--you would see little variability and would have a lot of confidence in your results, but in fact they would (unknown to you) be unusually far from the mean. The t-distribution quantifies how often such atypical samples occur.

You can also repeat the second simulation with a larger sample size than three (say, 10) using the following command:

randNorm(65, 2.8, 10)-->L1:(mean(L1)-65)/(stdev(L1)/root(10))

This time the large values are relatively unlikely, because the sample standard deviation has less variability in it (and behaves more like the constant sigma) when the sample size is large. t-distributions with large degrees of freedom look more like the standard normal distribution.

Activity 2

This time you're going to collect and analyze your own data to explore the validity of an urban myth. Well, perhaps this particular "myth" hasn't achieved sufficient fame to be called an Urban Myth, but we'll explore it anyways.

It is well accepted -- and I'm told there are solid theoretical reasons that a physicist could explain -- that a coin tossed into the air so that it flips has a 50% chance of landing heads. It has something to do with angular momentum and, um, well, it's a well accepted fact. What is not so well accepted is what happens if you spin a coin on a hard surface and wait for it to fall. Does it still have 50% chance of landing heads?

Your goal is to determine whether spinning a coin and waiting for it to land still produces a 50% probability of landing heads. Here are some guidelines:

a) Describe the test you're going to use. What are the assumptions behind it? Do they seem plausibly satisfied by your experiment?

b) Decide ahead of time how many spins you're going to do. No fair spinning until you reach a conclusion you like!

c) Do the experiment; collect the data; summarize the data for us; and carry out a test.

What do you conclude?

You might want to use the chat feature or bulletin boards (if available) to share your results and increase your sample size.