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AP Statistics Students Win National Competition

Last spring, Mrs. Elizabeth Van Lieshout asked her AP Statistics students to submit their year-end projects to the American Statistical Association’s (ASA) national project competition. The competition challenges students to design and conduct their own creative studies and attracts a variety of diverse submissions each year. Emma Kyle ’17 and Emily Molins ’18 won the competition in the Grade 10–12 category with a paper entitled “It’s Their Fault,” a study that explores the association between underage drinking and having an older sibling.  
“We were genuinely interested in the topic and wanted our project to be thought-provoking and unique,” Emma says.
 
Mrs. Van Lieshout admits that she was hesitant to sign off on the project, knowing it dealt with a relevant, though sensitive, topic among high school students. After some consideration, she obliged. “Both Emma and Emily are very mature, respectful and active learners,” she says. “They’re not ones to shy away from difficult questions.”
 
“Underage drinking is a problem that all high schoolers face, and we saw an opportunity to learn more about this prevalent issue,” adds Emily. “We thought that investigating underage drinking and its association with having an older sibling would be impactful.”
 
Their data shows that there is an association between the frequency of underage drinking and having an older sibling. For those who speak the language of statistics, the p value=.084. Van Lieshout points out that this is not an experiment, so there is no cause and effect, but what we see is an association. 
 
Emma and Emily hope that their findings can be used to help educate parents on the possible effects their older children have on their younger children. “Underage drinking is a very serious topic,” Emma says. “This information can also be useful to older siblings who should know that they are important role models for their younger sisters and brothers,” says Emily.  
 
And while the topic of the project is compelling, it wasn’t the results alone that earned Emma and Emily their first place honor. “It was their excellent reflection and interpretation of types of errors that contributed to the strength of their paper,” says Van Lieshout. “They looked at all angles. Their interpretation of results and their understanding of the types of errors that they could make in a conclusion are partly why they won.” 
 
On November 16, Emma and Emily were recognized in front of their peers after a Clavius Program Career Speaker event. For her work, each student received $300, an individual plaque and a graphing calculator provided by Texas Instruments. A plaque for display at Loyola was also part of the prize bundle.    
 
“I am so proud of these young women,” say Van Lieshout. “They worked very hard on their own project, but went above and beyond in helping other students as well.” 
 
Van Lieshout has been at Loyola Academy for three years, having turned to teaching after a 15-year career as a statistician. “Mrs. Van Lieshout was an awesome and engaging teacher who is always willing to help, and I learned to love the challenges that her class provided,” says Emily. “...In stats, I found a way to apply math to everyday problems—whether it’s charting population growth or analyzing a company’s productivity...Statistics are literally everywhere!”
 
 “Mrs. Van Lieshout always made the class easy to look forward to with her high energy and constant enthusiasm,” agrees Emma. “What I loved most about the class was our first and second semester projects, because we were given full freedom to apply what we learned in class to a real-world topic of our choice.”
 
Emma, a current senior, plans to major in applied math, statistics or actuarial science next year. “I hope to be an actuary or data analyst...something involving math and statistics!” she enthuses. Emily, a junior, looks forward to pursuing statistics beyond high school, as well. “In college, I look forward to taking more stats classes and learning more about this awesome field,” she says. While she’s not sure what career path she’ll explore—she’s considering medicine, business and banking—Emily is sure of one thing: “I know that wherever I end up, stats will definitely play a key role.”  
 
Emma and Emily will also be honored at Loyola’s Honors Convocation in the spring, an annual ceremony that recognizes students’ academic achievements.  
 
The American Statistical Association’s national project competition is directed by the ASA/NCTM Joint Committee on Curriculum in Statistics and Probability. The goal of the national project competition is to provide students with opportunities to apply all the statistical skills they acquire throughout the school year into their everyday life and interests.
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