The purpose of this lab is for students to be exposed to the concepts of mean, standard deviation and standard deviation of the mean. Also the students are shown how to use a spreadsheet to calculate these values. These statistical concepts will be used in both Physics I and II. This lab also shows students the format of writing physics labs.
A brief lecture is given before the lab starts on the usefulness of statistics and a discussion of the above statistical quantities and what they mean. Students then collect 25 pine needles and then go into lab and measure the length of them. The data is entered into a spreadsheet and the mean, standard deviation and the standard deviation of the mean are calculated.
The class meets as a whole after each group has obtained the mean plus or minus the standard deviation of the mean for their measurements on the length of the pine needles. The results from each group are written on the board and the class as a whole discusses what these results mean. Fortunately some of the class has taken Botany and they know about the number of different pine trees on campus and this is discussed.