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Written By: Kelly Kozma

As most teachers like to review the class syllabus on the first day, I chose to do something a little different, as I really wanted to get my students thinking about statistics (and having fun) right away. I wanted to help reduce their stress/anxiety about AP Statistics, as well as counteract the boredom they may experience by reviewing class policies and expectations all day in other classes.

The "Can Joy Smell Parkinson's" activity comes from this article (, in which after 10 years of marriage, Joy's husband, Les, started to smell different to Joy; kind of a musty odor. Joy initially thought Les needed to have better hygiene (shower more); but as the years went on, the smell never went away. Eventually, Les's personality and behavior started to change. Thinking that this might be a brain tumor, Joy took Les to a doctor, and he was finally diagnosed with Parkinson's.

Eventually, Joy and Les joined a Parkinson's support group, in which Joy could "smell Parkinson all around" her. So, they went to see a Parkinson's researcher at the University of Edinburgh. The university's experiment was to have 12 people wear T-shirts for the day (six people had Parkinson's, and six did not). Joy was asked to smell the T-shirts and identify which T-shirt smelled of Parkinson's and which T-shirt did not. She got them all right, except for one. That person eventually went on to develop Parkinson's.

The goal of this activity was to see if Joy was just lucky at identifying 12/12 T-shirts correctly, or if she really could smell Parkinson's.

So, in class, we simulated an experiment in which my students would smell a T-shirt cut-out and guess whether the T-shirt had Parkinson's or not. I wanted to show my students that no one would be able to correctly guess all 12. Then, we had a conversation to see if this was convincing enough evidence to claim that Joy really could smell Parkinson's.