Teaching Inferential Statistics with Netlogo

Last term I decided to try using a Netlogo simulation in stats class to help explain some basic principles of inferential statistics. The advantage of having a simulation package is that students can see for themselves that things like that standard error really do “work” (i.e. they offer a good estimate of what they are supposed to, in this case the standard deviation of the sampling distribution). This is something you can’t see if you’re working with just one real world sample, and the maths which allows us to derive these concepts is too complex for such a class.


I was really impressed with Netlogo in particular as the package of choice – easy to install and get running, handles packages smartly, clean and simple programming language behind it. The tidy graphical interface is also a major plus. Overall I think the students found it useful – something to engage in and play around with. A few of them noticed straight away that the interface could be reprogrammed which I think is also quite stimulating. I also made use of the stats module developed by Charles Staelin.

If you are interested in trying out my model you can download it here. No guarantees about accuracy – indeed I’m sure there’s a mistake in there somewhere! All feedback is appreciated.


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