Factors affecting probabilistic judgments in children and adolescents

Fischbein, E., Nello, M. S., & Marino, M. S.
Educational Studies in Mathematics

Six hundred and eighteen pupils, enrolled in elementary and junior-high-school classes (Pisa, Italy) were asked to solve a number of probability problems. The main aim of the investigation has been to obtain a better understanding of the origins and nature of some probabilistic intuitive obstacles. A linguistic factor has been identified: It appears that for many children, the concept of "certain events" is more difficult to comprehend than that of "possible events". It has been found that even adolescents have difficulties in detaching the mathematical structure from the practical embodiment of the stochastic situation. In problems where numbers intervene, the magnitude of the numbers considered has an effect on their probability; bigger numbers are more likely to be obtained than smaller ones. Many children seem to be unable to solve probability questions, because of their inability to consider the rational structure of a hazard situation: "chance" is, by itself, an equalizing factor of probabilities. Positive intuitive capacities have also been identified; some problems referring to compound events are better solved when addressed in a general form than when addressed in a particular way.

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