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Although teachers and authors of textbooks make extensive use of examples, little has been published on assessing and classifying pedagogic examples in engineering and science. This study reviews various characteristics of examples intended for a course on probability for electrical engineers. Twelve examples are constructed to illustrate some characteristics of the correlation coefficient. A survey incorporating these examples was administered to professors and students at Rensselaer who have taught or taken a course in probability. Statistical tests are applied to determine which examples professors and students prefer and to what extent they agree in their preferences. New bipolar criteria are proposed to classify objectively a broader set of examples that appear in textbooks. Even though preferences depend on educational background and maturity, textbooks on probability are sharply differentiated by the proposed classification criteria.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2008