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Lonnie Horlacher

MATH 1040, Ping Yu

Skittles Term Project


I.

Introduction

The project uses statistical techniques to describe a sample of Skittles candies. A total of 29 students
each purchased one single serving of Skittles. Each student tallied the number of candies per bag and
the number of candies per color per bag and submitted these counts to the instructor. The instructor
supplied all students with this data set for analysis.
II.

Candies by Color

The above charts represent the total sample of candies as reported by all students. Initial viewing of the
pie chart seems to indicate even distribution among the five candy colors. However, the Pareto chart
shows indicates some small differences. Notably, there seems to be significantly fewer yellow candies
than any other color.
I dont know if this is a result of the random nature of our sample, or if this is intentional on the part of
the candy manufacturer. Some possible rationale for including less of one color of candy could be the
respective costs of the candy dyes or a desire for a certain aesthetic effect of the mixed candies.

Sample
Lonnie #
Lonnie %
Total #
Total %

One Bag vs Total Sample


Red
Green
Purple Orange Yellow
TOTAL
12
13
8
13
14
60
0.200
0.217
0.133
0.217
0.233
1.000
366
0.212

355
0.206

346
0.201

343
0.199

314
0.182

1724
1.000

My own bag of Skittles had more yellow candies than any other color. Purple was least represented, and
this results in the largest proportional disparity between my bag and the total sample. The overall

Lonnie Horlacher
MATH 1040, Ping Yu
sample contained a .201 proportion of purple Skittles. My bag had just a .133 proportion. The difference
is .07.
III.

Candies per bag

The mean number of candies per bag in this sample of 29 bags is 59.4. The standard deviation is 2.38.

Number of Candies per Bag - Box Plot

53

58

60 61

64

The number of candies per bag appears to be slightly skewed to the left, however, the media is 60, the
mode is 60, and the mean is 59.4. The similarity among these measurements indicates a relatively
normal distribution. This is additionally supported by the fact that the minimum value in the
distribution, 53, can be considered an outlier as it more than 1.5x the Inter-Quartile Range below Q1. If
this outlier were eliminated, the mean would move even closer to the median and mode.
Given the candy manufacturers interest in providing a consistent experience with each candy purchase,
it is unsurprising that the number of candies per bag varies only narrowly and generates a normal
distribution.
My bag of candies contained exactly 60 candies equal to the median and mode of the sample.
IV.

Reflection

Categorical data, like the colors of Skittles, is data that can be sorted into categories, but for which no
difference can be calculated between categories. Red less blue doesnt mean anything. On the other
hand, differences between the classes in quantitative data, like the number of candies per bag of
Skittles, can be calculated. 60 less 59 yields a meaningful result.
Categorical data is well-represented by pie charts, histograms or Pareto charts. Quantitative data can be
represented by histograms, and the distribution of quantitative data is well illustrated by box plots. In
addition, quantitative data allows for some additional calculations beyond what is available for
categorical data, including mean, median, mode and standard deviation.

Lonnie Horlacher
MATH 1040, Ping Yu
V.

Confidence Interval Estimates

Confidence intervals allow statisticians to provide both a best point estimate for a population parameter
and a measurement of how accurate that estimate might be. Holding alpha constant, a wide confidence
interval indicates that the best point estimate may be significantly different than the true population
parameter due to high variability in the data or a small sample size.
Confidence intervals also allow to the statistician to provide reasonably reliable estimates of what a
parameter is not. The upper and lower boundaries allow a decision maker to consider the impact of a
population parameter that is at most a or at least b. If both boundaries are acceptable, decisions
can be made. If one or both is potentially problematic, the study can be revisited hopefully with an
increased sample size.
99% Confidence Interval for the True Proportion of Yellow Candies
.1582 < p < .206 (see work attached)
95% Confidence Interval for the True Mean of Candies per Bag
58.54 < <60.36 (see work attached)
98% Confidence Interval for the Standard Deviation of Candies per Bag
1.81 < < 3.42 (see work attached)
The results of the test are mostly unsurprising. I had hoped to see the upper limit on the confidence
interval for the proportion of yellow candies to less than .20. This would have indicated some decisionmaking on the part of Skittles to favor some colors above others. However, while .20 is just barely
included, it is included, and there is a chance that the true population proportion is actually 20%.
The CI tests for the mean are standard deviation are not very enlightening. It is worth noting that the CI
for the number of candies per bag is very narrow. This is the parameter that Skittles is likely most
interested in controlling. An change in number of candies per bag could negatively increase profits on
one hand or negatively increase consumer experience on the other hand.
VI.

Hypothesis Tests

A hypothesis test uses data obtained from a sample to evaluate the likelihood of a specified population
parameter being true. While it is very, very hard to measure an entire population, a hypothesis test can
tell a statistician whether a hypothesis is reasonable and supported by the results of a sample or
whether his hypothesis is unlikely.
Hypothesis Test for Number of Read Candies. Claim: P = .20
Test Statistic of |1.25| < |1.96| Critical Value; Fail to reject; There is evidence to support the
claim that 20% of Skittles candies are red.
Hypothesis Test for Mean number of Candies per Bag
[p < 0.01] < [ = .01]; Reject; There is sufficient evidence to warrant rejection of the claim that
mean number of candies in a bag of Skittles is 55.

Lonnie Horlacher
MATH 1040, Ping Yu
Since 21.2% of the candies in the sample were red, I am not surprised that our test supports the
claim that 20% of the population candies are red. Given the narrow confidence interval
calculated for the mean number of candies per bag in the last section, I would have been very
surprised to find that 55 was a plausible population a plausible population mean.

VII.

Reflection

The primary concerns when attempting to estimate any population parameter from a sample are the
size of the sample and the collection methodology of the sample.
Due to the simplicity of collecting the data, the collection methodology is unlikely to have affected the
outcome of the test, but it could have been improved. Most glaringly, our data is the result of 29
different people counting their candies at different times in different places with no training and no
opportunity for double check. It is a simple thing to count candies from a bag. However, this collection
method was needlessly complicated (when solely considering the goal of estimating population
parameters). A single person or team working together in a single sitting would have eliminated several
opportunities for error.
Given the ease of collecting this data (buy some Skittles, count them), it would be hard to justify using
such a small sample size when determining population parameters. Why not buy 100 bags? At the least,
we should have used at least 30 samples in order to calculate the mean.

Lonnie Horlacher
MATH 1040, Ping Yu
VIII.

Final Reflection
There is something empowering about using classroom learning to solve a problem for which

there is no answer printed in the back of the book. The dullness of homework, tests, etc., is largely due
to the fact that there is nothing new to discover. The best answers are already printed and triple
checked and authorized. All any student can do is try to not fail. But, using bookish formulas to discover
anything about something 3-D and tangible and unique is entirely different regardless of the fact other
students and my professor are using the same data to draw the same conclusions. I am part of the first
group ever to measure these 29 bags of Skittles and then use them to estimate population parameters. I
found myself actually curious: How many candies are in a bag of Skittles? Are there exactly as many red
Skittles as yellow? And now, while I dont know anything, I am in the 99 percentile of people who
know about Skittles.
In my previous job as an advertising media buyer, I looked at data a lot. One of the main
functions of my position was to evaluate options based on information obtained from surveys. Have no
fear; Nielsen did all of the hard work before sending the survey over. All I had to do was double check
that my sample size never got too small as I sorted and pivoted the data. However, campaign
performance data often came directly to me. E.g., this website served x impressions which resulted in y
clicks compared to another website which served a impressions and resulted in b clicks. And there were
6 different ads running in different sizes and positions. No one in my department had the background to
statistically demonstrate that one website or ad size or call-to-action actually produced better results.
The most any of us could do was look at the data and say, Well, that one is higher, so I guess. Now I
can use a hypothesis test to answer the question, Did any of these variables make a difference?
Granted, there is a lot more to learn on those seemingly simple questions, but it is nice to have a place
to start.