Who says statistics isn’t exciting? Through fun scenarios and images, like the above from Smartly’s Advanced Statistics Inference course, Linda Richard is helping to re-brand statistics for thousands of learners! Linda, one of Smartly’s content creators in the field of probability and statistics, has a background in business and education and currently resides in the Netherlands. She believes that statistics is an important subject to understand because it touches so many disciplines including business, medicine, and foreign policy.
In this post, we catch up with Linda to learn what she’s working on and why she decided to join Smartly.
1. What’s your name, and where are you based?
Currently I live in the Netherlands due to my husband’s work. Before that, I lived in Seattle, and before that, New York, North Carolina, and Minnesota!
2. How long have you been writing for Smartly?
About 2 years.
3. What’s your professional and educational background?
I have a Bachelor’s in Math, a Master’s in Operations Research (a field of applied math), and a Master’s in Teaching. I worked in business for almost 10 years before changing careers to teaching. Then I taught high school math in Seattle for 6 years before moving abroad. I keep my fingers in the public education sphere through projects with Washington State and other high school curriculum organizations.
4. How and why did you start writing for Smartly?
When we moved to Europe, I wanted to find work that would allow flexible hours for traveling and other fun living-abroad-activities, but still be part of the education world. Pedago was looking for math content developers, which was right in my wheelhouse.
5. What are some of the courses and subjects that you’ve written about in Smartly?
I’ve written lots of statistics and probability lessons, as well as Excel lessons. Recently I’ve started writing lessons on coding with Python, which is a whole ‘nother challenge!
6. Why do you think it’s important for students to understand statistics?
Statistics is probably the most important field of math that most people will interact with after they finish their schooling. Statistics are used to make decisions on health, education, foreign policy, and of course in business. Stats can so easily be mis-used, intentionally or not, so having a solid knowledge base to question and understand this topic is really critical for workers and citizens.
7. What’s the hardest concept you’ve had to communicate (so far), and what was it like to try and distill it for the Smartly platform?
The probability concepts of Bayes’ Rule and the Law of Total Probability were challenging to communicate. Visual illustrations, concrete real-world examples, and spending prep time building up learners’ intuition on these concepts were the strategies. We focused on conceptual understanding rather than on formula memorization – a formula can always be looked up, but if the foundational understanding isn’t there, no formula can help you! The Law of Total Probability, for example, looks like a fairly incomprehensible, complicated formula at first glance, but it’s really just a weighted average.
8. What do you admire about Smartly learners?
With people’s busy lives, it can be hard to find the motivation and the time to take on education projects. People taking Smartly classes are doing so on their own initiative, to advance their learning and their careers.
9. What do you do to keep your learners in mind?
With my background in teaching, I’ve learned how to monitor my own thinking. When you’re teaching content that you know well, you have to be alert for concepts that seem “obvious,” but only feel that way because you’ve been working with them for a long time. Especially in math–there are a lot of embedded concepts that need to be carefully unpacked for people unfamiliar with the topics.
I also try to incorporate visuals and concrete examples wherever possible, knowing that people have different learning styles. The interactive nature of the Smartly platform of course helps with this too!
10. What’s one of your favorite storylines (or characters) used in one of your courses in Smartly?
For the Advanced Statistical Inference courses, we created a fictional winter sports equipment company. It allowed a lot of room for examples with testing equipment, sampling customer preferences, and analyzing market schemes. Plus, my editor, Ellie, found great images with gorgeous snow-covered mountains, and we were able to have some fun putting our characters in situations involving competitive snowball tournaments!
11. What’s your favorite whimsical or snarky answer message you’ve written in Smartly?
Definitely it’s the Monty Python references in the Python lessons. Some are obvious but some are hidden a bit more deeply! Spam and eggs; hovercrafts full of eels; dead parrots; the possibilities are endless.
12. What’s one of your favorite images used in one of your courses in Smartly?
Two come to mind from the Advanced Statistical Inference course. In this capstone lesson, the scenario is that all the experts on statistics at a company, except for the learner, are out of the office with the flu. All the junior analysts are panicked and looking for help. My editor, Ellie, found/created images which put a smile on my face and hopefully the learner’s too!