Chinese students' understanding of probability

Jun, L.
Pereira-Mendoza, L.
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

This study investigated the following three questions: What are the Chinese students main misconceptions of probability? What is the developmental structure of students' understanding of probability? Can an activity-based short-term teaching programme improve ordinary grade 8 students' understanding of probability? The first two questions were answered in the main study. The sample was 567 Chinese students from three grades (6, 8 and 12) and two school streams (ordinary and advanced). After one year, six activity-based lessons which focused on empirical probability were given to two grade 8 classes in an ordinary school. The approaches were parallel except that one class had the opportunity to see computer simulations of a long series of experiments, while the other class was given the data in written form. All the students were tested and interviewed both prior to and after the teaching intervention. Fourteen groups of misconceptions were observed in this study. The outcome approach, chance cannot be measured mathematically, compound approach and equiprobability were the main misconceptions for each grade and each stream of students. The context and data used in an item were found to play a role in eliciting some misconceptions. Using the SOLO taxonomy, it was found that, generally, there was no improvement in developmental level at grades 6 and 8, the two grades without any formal probability training. Grade 12 students have a better understanding than the younger students. The results of the teaching show that a short intervention can help students overcome some of their misconceptions. Students in the two classes improved substantially in their answers and reasoning but no statistically significant difference was found between the classes.

The CAUSE Research Group is supported in part by a member initiative grant from the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics and Data Science Education