Author Archives: Alison Gibbs

Random Sampling to Support Informal Inference using Census at School

AlisonGibbsAlison Gibbs. University of Toronto

In Canada, school curricula differ by province, but most Canadian mathematics curricula include glimpses of statistical thinking, typically in the middle grades.  In the province of Ontario, tracing the statistics part of the curriculum through the grades reveals a progression in sophistication of tools for summarizing data, with some scattered mentions of the ideas of informal inference.  Students are encouraged to make inferences from their observations, but typically without tools to support their generalizability.  Teachers are aware that there are important statistical ideas their students need to understand to do this well.  For example, they know that a larger sample size is usually better, but they don’t know how to show their students the effects of sample size on the inferences they can make.  In addition, teachers often have the challenge of irregular access to technology and uneven expertise and support.  In this context, I recently worked with a group of 15 middle school teachers on an activity that uses multiple random samples to better understand the effect of sample size, with only minimal need for technology.

With the random sampler, students can draw random samples of data from the accumulated databases of questionnaire responses from students from participating countries. 

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