The Howard University School of Business has a class called Quantitative Business Analysis or QBA. QBA is the class that teaches students how to build business models and optimize them in Microsoft Excel. Students use tools like Solver, Regression and Pivot Tables to handle these problems. Howard is not unique in this, almost all B-Schools have some type of similar course.
After teaching the class for four years, I got a feeling for how to teach it, and how to handle the students that weren’t getting it. Part of the problem with teaching a spreadsheet modeling class is that spreadsheets can be hard to debug. It’s relatively easy to figure out which assignments were correct and which ones weren’t. However, it could be maddening scouring over a spreadsheet to find where a student went wrong. And it could be hard to explain why some changes or differences still gave the right answer, while others were more problematic.
Recently I have been teaching a Data Analysis sequence at Montgomery College. This class covers tasks in Excel and Python and R. And although the class wasn’t really about modeling (it was more about Data Analysis), I found myself taking another look at the problem sets I had created in QBA.
In no time at all, I found myself enamored of the idea of developing a Business Modeling course in Python instead of Excel, because it is easier. It kind of blew me away, but when I looked at some of the tools in Python for doing the things I had been teaching in Excel (especially Regression, Pivot Tables and Solver), I found that the Python way of completing those tasks was simpler and more straight forward than the Excel way. The student might have to copy some boilerplate code and modify it, but it was quite straightforward to explain what to do, and it was very easy to find students’ mistakes.
Thus, I arrived at my newest project Intro to Business Data Analysis with Python. This new book may very well be followed by Intro to Business Data Analysis with R, but I want to see how it goes before I commit to that.
I need to finish Intro to Data Analysis Tools in Python before I start the new one, but I am very excited by the new project.