Exploiting Lexical Ambiguity to Help Students Understand the Meaning of Random

Jennifer J. Kaplan, Neal T. Rogness, and Diane G. Fisher

Words that are part of colloquial English but used differently in a technical domain may possess lexical ambiguity. The use of such words by instructors may inhibit student learning if incorrect connections are made by students between the technical and colloquial meanings. One fundamental word in statistics that has lexical ambiguity for students is “random.” A suggestion in the literature to counteract the effects of lexical ambiguity and help students learn vocabulary is to exploit the lexical ambiguity of the words. This paper describes a teaching experiment designed to exploit the lexical ambiguities of random in the statistics classroom and provides preliminary results that indicate that such classroom interventions can be successful at helping students make sense of ambiguous words.