Random walks as motivational material in introductory statistics and probability courses

Lynn A. Fisher, Donald St P. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent articles have described the advantages of teaching elementary statistics and probability classes using approaches that encourage greater student engagement, including experimentation, with the subject matter. We describe our experiences in introducing the subject of random walks to small groups of high-school and first-year college students. As we show in this article, the topic of random walks provides a superb way for instructors to introduce a class to elementary simulation problems, calculation of expectations and measures of variability for geometric distributions, real-world interpretation and consequences for the divergence of infinite series, and the behavior of random walks on restricted sets in the plane. Most enchantingly, all facets of this journey are entirely accessible to an involved class of students equipped with minimal knowledge of calculus. Based on our experiences, we strongly recommend student involvement in the teaching of introductory concepts to small classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-316
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Statistician
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • General Mathematics
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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