Helping Students Understand the Meaning of Random: Addressing Lexical Ambiguity

Tuesday, August 10th, 20102:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Presented by: Diane Fisher, University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Jennifer Kaplan, Michigan State University; and Neal Rogness, Grand Valley State University


Our research shows that half of the students entering a statistics course use the word random colloquially to mean, "haphazard" or "out of the ordinary." Another large subset of students define random as, "selecting without prior knowledge or criteria." At the end of the semester, only 8% of students we studied gave a correct statistical definition for the word random and most students still define random as, "selecting without order or reason." In this session we will present a classroom approach to help students better understand what statisticians mean by random or randomness as well as preliminary results of the affect of this approach.