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The reasoning behind informal statistical inference


Authors: 
Makar, K., Bakker, A., & Ben-Zvi, D.
Category: 
Volume: 
13(1-2)
Pages: 
152–173
Year: 
2011
Publisher: 
Mathematical Thinking and Learning
Abstract: 

Informal statistical inference (ISI) has been a frequent focus of recent research in statistics education. Considering the role that context plays in developing ISI calls into question the need to be more explicit about the reasoning that underpins ISI. This paper uses educational literature on informal statistical inference and philosophical literature on inference to argue that in order for students to generate informal statistical inferences, there are a number of interrelated key elements that are needed to support their informal inferential reasoning (IIR). In particular, we claim that ISI is nurtured by statistical knowledge, knowledge about the problem context, and useful norms and habits developed over time, and supported by an inquiry-based environment (tasks, tools, scaffolds). We adopt Peirce’s view that inquiry is a sense-making process driven by doubt and belief, leading to inferences and explanations. To illustrate the roles that these elements play in supporting students to generate informal statistical inferences, we provide an analysis of three sixth graders’ (aged 12) informal inferential reasoning—the reasoning processes leading to their informal statistical inferences.