STA114/MTH136: Statistics

Lec: Old Chem 116 Lab: Teer 106
Tue & Thu 2:50-4:15pm Wed 10:05-11:20am or 11:40-12:55pm
Prof:Robert L. Wolpert TA:Anirban Bhattacharya
Office: Old Chem 211c, 684-3275 Old Chem 211a, 684-5884
OH:Wed 1:30-2:30pm Mon & Wed 7:30-9:00pm
Tue & Thu 4:05-4:20pm (in classroom)

Home Page Syllabus PDF Formulas Computing Data


An introduction to the concepts, theories and methods of statistical inference. We discuss both the ideas and methods of modern Bayesian statistical science as well as the classical methods based on sampling theory. Statistics is a vast field, and a first one-semester course can offer only a brief introduction, with a deeper look at a few key ideas. The goal of this course is to provide such an introduction and to illustrate through examples how Statistics serves as the foundation for all scientific reasoning and inference amid uncertainty.

Statistical modeling and inference are based on the mathematical theory of probability and solving practical problems usually requires integration or optimization in several dimensions. Thus this course requires a solid mathematical background (calculus and linear algebra at the level of MTH 103 and MTH 104, or MTH 105) and proficiency in basic probability theory (MTH 135/STA 104, or STA 213); students without strong preparation in these will need to invest significant additional time to fill in the gaps.

The course text is Morris DeGroot & Mark Schervish, Probability and Statistics (3rd edn). All class materials are distributed on-line via the web; for example, you may view homework assignments (and sometimes class notes) on the Syllabus.

Homework Assignments

The only way to learn the course material is to solve problems (or, as Sophocles put it, One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.) Weekly problem sets are assigned through the on-line syllabus. Homeworks are collected at the START of class each Thursday, after which solutions will be posted on the web. Until solutions are posted, late homeworks are accepted but are penalized 10% per day. The two lowest homework scores will be dropped.

You may work with other students on the homework problems, but your final answers should be written up independently: copying homework solutions is not allowed. You are encouraged to ask me or the TA for help on your homework, after you have tried to solve the problems on your own. Questions about homework scores should first be addressed to the TA.

HELP is available! The TA and I both have office-hours (see above); in addition, Duke Statistics maintains an open Help Session every Sun-Thu in the Statistical Education and Consulting Center, located in room 211a Old Chem, where a statistics graduate student will be happy to help you (detailed times and staffing are listed on the SECC website). There may also be grad students from other departments, helping students in the introductory statistics courses--- be sure to find a Duke Statistical Science grad student (they're listed in red or orange on the TA Schedule.).


In-class Midterm Exams and Final Exam are closed-book and closed-notes with a formula sheet permitted (one-sided, 8½"×11" for each midterm, and two-sided, 8½"×11" for the final). You may (and probably should) bring to each exam a calculator capable of computing exponentials, powers, and factorials. Questions about exam scores should be taken up with the Professor.


Course grades are based on two in-class Midterm Exams (20% each), ten weekly Homework assignments (25% total), and a cumulative Final Exam (35%). Late homeworks are penalized, and missed homeworks receive zero scores, but each student's two lowest homework scores are dropped. Histograms and summary statistics of midterm and final exam scores will be added to the syllabus web page. Each student's current average and course standing are available from the instructor at any time.

Academic Integrity

Cheating on exams, plagiarism on homeworks and projects, lying about an illness or absence and other forms of academic dishonesty are a breach of trust with classmates and faculty, and will not be tolerated. They also violate Duke's Community Standard and will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs (OJA).

Excused Absence

Students who miss tests or assignments due to long-term illness, personal or family emergency (known to and approved by the academic Dean), or authorized representation of the University off-campus (e.g., a varsity athletic trip or class field trip), or some similar reason that is "more or less beyond a student's control," may be eligible for a Dean's Excuse; check with your academic dean for details. No excuse is needed simply for missing class, only for missed assignments and examinations. Dean's Excuses are not issued for short-term illness or religious observence; if you are unable to complete an assignment or attend an examination for one of these reasons, inform your instructor as soon as possible and make arrangements to make up the missed work. Note that the Community Standard sanctions apply for abuse of this procedure.