Brown, RISD Graduates Develop Online Statistical Resource

Daniel Kunin’s 2017 statistical visualization project “Seeing Theory” recently caught the attention of students, schools and educators. Working alongside Rhode Island School of Design graduate Tyler Devlin ’17, Daniel Xiang ’17 and Jingru Guo, Kunin created visually stunning representations of statistical concepts ranging from probability to inference. The website uses real-world examples to supplement classroom learning.

Kunin teamed up with Guo for the final project in a web applications course at Brown, and together the team created the first version of “Seeing Theory”.

“The (original) goal was to create these interactive visualizations that could contextualize the concepts in an introductory statistics course,” Kunin said.

“All of the (previous) resources seemed out of date and I couldn’t find any interactive visualizations,” Xiang said. “Today’s online education was in plain text with no interaction. After being accepted as a Royce member to continue his work on the project, Kunin shared the team’s work with a few data scientists and math bloggers, one of whom tweeted about it.

The project has gone viral.

Since its launch, “Seeing Theory” has grown from being just an additional resource to more of a living online manual, Kunin said. “We have significantly expanded the written content,” he added. “We provide more detailed written context for each visualization. We’ve also added a whole new chapter on Bayesian Inference and changed a lot of visualizations.

Xiang said he was excited about the clarity of the explanations offered by “Seeing Theory”, given the complexity of the subject, he said. “It’s all in a small, concise bite-sized module, and it’s really accessible. ”

With RISD training, Guo brought “a whole new perspective on design” to the project that the rest of the team didn’t own, Kunin said. The project helped her launch her career as a designer, teaching her how to create a product from scratch using modern design tools, Guo added.

Xiang joined the project after Kunin’s initial work with Guo, and they discussed expanding their team to include Devlin. “We got together at New Baja and sat for two hours talking about the project,” he said. “I thought (the project) would be a good way to consolidate all these topics that I had taken up in undergraduate.”

Kunin sees the development of “Seeing Theory” coming to an end in the near future. The team hopes to tackle the remaining bugs before volunteers take over to translate the website into Italian, Chinese, Polish and a number of other languages, he said. “We’ll get to a point where we’re happy with the results, (and) then we’ll just let it become a resource on the Internet.”

“Working on any project, it’s always hard to say it’s a place where I can end up. Guo said. “There is always a balance between finish and perfection.

Xiang hopes the project will be integrated into classrooms to help visual learners, although it is not intended to completely replace first-grade statistical education.

“Aesthetics are a very important part of learning,” Kunin said. “Math especially; for me math is a very beautiful field and for some students the best way to teach math is to share this beautiful side.

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