What Makes the Standard Deviation Larger or Smaller? (Star Library)

The activity is designed to help students develop a better intuitive understanding of what is meant by variability in statistics. Emphasis is placed on the standard deviation as a measure of variability. As they learn about the standard deviation, many students focus on the variability of bar heights in a histogram when asked to compare the variability of two distributions. For these students, variability refers to the "variation" in bar heights. Other students may focus only on the range of values, or the number of bars in a histogram, and conclude that two distributions are identical in variability even when it is clearly not the case. This activity can help students discover that the standard deviation is a measure of the density of values about the mean of a distribution and to become more aware of how clusters, gaps, and extreme values affect the standard deviation. Key words: Variability, standard deviation

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Robert C. delMas
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