Today, Dr. Berman is bringing his approach to teaching, his understanding of the way students learn and learn math in particular, along with his own in-depth grasp of the intricacies of his specialty in statistics to a wider audience with his newly-published book, Analysis of Covariance: A Comprehensive Expository Text.
Dr. Berman began teaching at Horace Mann School in 1974, just after earning his PhD in math education while teaching at Pace University beginning in 1966. "I had heard of Horace Mann and I knew it was a school that encouraged creativity that also had exceptional students. When I was offered the opportunity to come to Horace Mann to teach geometry and a course called 'Selected Topics in Math' I was excited. I have loved every minute of teaching there since." At first Dr. Berman brought his own love of mathematics and teaching to the classroom, but, as his understanding of students grew with his teaching experience, he zeroed in on an aspect of the discipline that would excite the math whiz and humanities/social sciences star alike, and "reach the students who weren’t as interested in math as I was." Dr. Berman thus zeroed in on the subject of statistics as an avenue for reaching those students – a subject that would involve his classes not only with math studies, but would combine their lessons with an investigation of the social sciences.
Horace Mann School Alumni Bryan Barnett '81, Catherine Garrison '01 and Melissa Parento '90
were among those who participated in a reception in honor of Dr. Stephen Berman
when he retired from 36 years of teaching at Horace Mann in June 2010.
"I always believed that teaching should be interdisciplinary, and that if you reached kids emotionally, the math would come along,” said this teacher who referred to the writing and theories of such educators as Jonathan Kozol and Deanna Burney. “My way was to go step by step. Sometimes it seemed as if someone had turned on a light bulb for a student who had been getting "C"s and started getting "A"s," said Dr. Berman.
The bane of many a graduate
student, for whom statistics is an uncomfortable right of passage, Dr. Berman
taught this course "at the high school level, and exposed Horace Mann School
students to probability and statistics – one of the things everyone needs to
know throughout life," according to alumnus Bryan Barnett '81, who counts Dr.
Berman among his most influential teachers.
Dean of Faculty Dr. Eric Eilen presented Dr. Berman a plaque noting the teacher's
distinguished service to Horace Mann School as a math teacher and Director of Clubs.
Dr. Berman's "take" on the subject of statistics did not just fascinate students like Barnett, who discovered his love of mathematics as a second grader, went on from Horace Mann to earn a degree in math at Columbia University, his MBA at Cornell, and who today works as a financial advisor. The teacher managed to awaken in all of his students an interest in covariance, probability, and statistics by applying these to "real world" situations, from legal cases to criminal investigations to the social issues swirling around society throughout the eras during which he taught. Together Dr. Berman and his students examined "multivariable statistical analysis as applied to the social sciences," the teacher explained. "We looked at such things as predictability in terms of the SATs – examining the correlation between SAT scores and how a student does in the first year of college. There are variables that affect the scores like whether a student was nervous during the test. We also looked at studies of whether SAT scores predict future income," recalled Dr. Berman.
"We studied jury trials to get a sense of the variables that can affect whether a juror will vote to convict or not to convict in different cases." Dr. Berman included documentary films and news articles in his curriculum, and his classes welcomed guest speakers, including Joel Siegal, a former Horace Mann School parent who visited the students each year for over a decade to discuss a world-famous legal case involving a surrogate mother for whom he had served as an attorney, and bringing to life the subject of and how trial attorneys can benefit from understanding covariance and probability in relation to jury deliberations. The math teacher's assignments often included essay writing, in which students could argue for or against a topic like affirmative action – as long as they related their thinking to the numbers involved. The assignments offered a relief to those less numerically inclined.
Attorney Joel Siegal, a former Horace Mann School parent who represented Mary Beth Whitehead
in the world-famous "Baby M Case" involving surrogate motherhood, spoke to students
in Dr. Stephen Berman's class in May 2010 about how probability and statistics can be useful
to understanding the jury system.
Dr. Stephen Berman retired from teaching at Horace Mann School in June 2010, but his new book makes his teaching technique accessible to future generations of Horace Mann students and to students everywhere. Published in Fall 2010 by Xlibris Analysis of Covariance is available from the publisher, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble, among other booksellers. The book breaks new ground in several areas in the statistical literature in both content and instructional methods. Comprising 153 pages, the book provides an in-depth treatment of the subject, presented clearly and without abstraction, with explanations that recall the patience with which Dr. Berman explained covariance in his classroom at Horace Mann. Analysis of Covariance also calls upon the over 2,000 slides Dr. Berman produced for his students. Its content makes accessible an extremely important area of statistics by offering an ingenious and inspirational technique to use statistical projections to adjust predictor variables in groups which are biased due to inequities in variables initially used to create these groups. In biology, psychology, sociology, business, psychodynamics, human relations, and medicine, for example, groups used in experiments are often not equated on initial variables which can be experimentally controlled. However, by analyzing covariance, through a fascinating statistical application of projections, these diverse groups can be balanced through solely statistical means to give highly accurate group comparisons.
Dr. Stephen Berman shows some of the notes for classes he developed
at Horace Mann School that serve as the basis for his newly-published book.
According to Dr. Berman, "the text was written with HM students in mind, and makes available to HM students, as well as students elsewhere, a true understanding of the rich philosophy behind statistical reasoning, particularly with regard to geometrical thinking and the conduct of experiments in the sciences and social sciences." Dr. Berman hearkened back to some of his earliest experiences with students at Horace Mann School in considering the content of his text. Among those students was Dr. David Silbersweig '78, who Dr. Berman taught in eighth and ninth grade. Back then, Dr. Silbersweig was more engaged with humanities studies, and went on to study philosophy at Dartmouth. But he added medicine to his focus, pursuing medical degrees in neurology and psychiatry. A director of the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, and a distinguished pioneer in the field of neuroimaging as related to psychiatry, on a visit back to Horace Mann Dr. Silbersweig told his former teacher that his high school statistics course remained significant throughout his studies and even informs his research work today. For the former math major Bryan Barnett "Dr. Berman was definitely a major influence – Dr. Berman and Joan Bowen. Dr. Berman always had time for his students. When you think back to your favorite teachers, the ones you remember were the ones who were committed educators and had a passion for teaching and for what they taught. Dr. Berman was that kind of teacher."
Barnett was among the alumni, family, faculty members and friends who feted Dr. Berman at a reception in his honor upon his retirement last spring. Horace Mann Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly, Director of the Alumni House and Development Office Melissa Parento '90, Head of the Upper Division Dr. David Schiller, former math department chair Dr. Lionel Garrison, and longtime math department colleague teacher Richard Somma were among those who recalled memories of Dr. Berman's teaching and the students he inspired. Dean of Faculty Dr. Eric Eilen summed up Horace Mann School's appreciation to Dr. Berman for his years of service as he presented the retiring teacher with a plaque in recognition of his HM teaching career.
Dr. Berman, in turn, has dedicated his book to Dr. Kelly for "his outstanding leadership, and great interest in teaching and statistics" and for "greatly motivating" him "to write this text." The book is also dedicated to the entire Upper Division mathematics department at Horace Mann School, including Chris Jones, Chair, and Lionel Garrison, previous Chair, "for their great support and help in developing many formative ideas used in this text." Additional dedications go to "Dr. David Schiller, Head of the Upper Division, and Dr. Eric Eilen, Dean of Faculty, for their many suggestions and great interest and inspiration in teaching, which were greatly reflected in the writing of this book."