Robert R. Johnson '62
Robert R. Johnson ’62
Professor of Mathematics Emeritus and a former chair of the Mathematics Department at Monroe Community College, and author of several statistics textbooks.
After graduating from Marathon Central School (1957), Marathon, NY, he received his B.S. from SUNY Cortland (1962), Cortland, NY and M.A. from University of Northern Iowa (1966), Cedar Falls, IA, both in mathematics. Additionally he studied statistics at University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, and Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY. Johnson taught high school mathematics at Greene Central School (1962), Greene, NY and Groton Central School (1962–1965), Groton, NY. After completing his master’s degree, he taught at SUNY Cortland (1966–1967), before moving on to Monroe Community College (1967–2000), Rochester, NY, where he taught for 33 years.
Although he found great joy in teaching all mathematics courses, statistics soon became his favorite. In 1969 work began on a manuscript that would become ELEMENTARY STATISTICS and in 1973 it was published by Duxbury Press. The next 40 years would see the textbook updated through 11 editions with some of them published in Spanish and Chinese. Additionally, ELEMENTARY STATISTICS was revised and published as four alternate textbooks titled: Elementary Statistics for Business, Elementary Statistics for Business: A First Course, Just the Essentials of Elementary Statistics, and STAT.
The subject area of introductory statistics may have been Professor Johnson’s favorite subject, but his passion was the “teaching of statistics!” Many of the introductory statistics textbooks in the 1960’s and 1970’s used artificial examples with ABC Company and widgets with made-up data. Johnson believed it would be more meaningful to the student if the names, objects and data were real; real information from the world surrounding us seemed far more interesting and meaningful. For example, the morning newspaper always has several articles where the news is supported by statistical information. And thus began a change in the way textbooks were written and statistics was presented. REAL data became a standard request to the book publishers. Johnson was active in teaching conferences and workshops where he made several presentations about the “teaching of statistics” often aided by the use of MINITAB®. He has been using computers and MINITAB for over 30 years to aid in teaching statistics (as well as other mathematics courses). He is also an active advocate for writing across the curriculum believing that the numerical answer is of no value to anyone unless it’s accompanied by a meaningful explanation.
Starting and organizing the Beyond the Formula Statistics Conferences for teachers of introductory statistics was a natural extension. While attending a mathematics conference in 1996, it became very evident that the attendees had far more questions about teaching introductory statistics than there was time to cover. These conferences were for all areas of mathematics and typically had only one or two sessions on statistics. Thus, the idea of a conference just for teachers teaching introductory statistics was born. From 1997 to 2006 a two-day conference was hosted by Johnson and his department at Monroe Community College. He recruited many national leaders in the field of introductory statistics education and attendees came from across the entire USA. This conference was mostly the product of Johnson’s passion for how statistics should be taught. Ohio State University continues to host a similar annual conference.
One of Bob Johnson’s other passions is high school and college basketball. He coached high school basketball while at Groton for 3 years and then again at Rush-Henrietta Central School, Henrietta, NY from 1984 to 1993.
Q: And what would the game of basketball be without statistics?
A: Just like most things in the world around us, not very interesting or meaningful.