The p and the peas: An intuitive modeling approach to hypothesis testing

C. Neuhauser, E. Stanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We propose a novel approach to introducing hypothesis testing into the biology curriculum. Instead of telling students the hypothesis and what kind of data to collect followed by a rigid recipe of testing the hypothesis with a given test statistic, we ask students to develop a hypothesis and a mathematical model that describes the null hypothesis. Simulation of the model under the null hypothesis allows students to compare their experimental data to what they would expect under the null hypothesis, thus leading to a much more intuitive understanding of hypothesis testing. This approach has been tested both in the classroom and in faculty workshops, and we provide some suggestions for implementations based on our experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-95
Number of pages20
JournalMathematical Modelling of Natural Phenomena
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Partially supported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute through an HHMI Professor grant to C. Neuhauser.


  • Data analysis
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Mathematical and biological reasoning
  • Model building
  • Model revision
  • Normal distribution
  • Peas
  • Probability
  • Sampling
  • Seed development


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