Alex Neil, NZCER

A hands-on investigation to help think statistically

One of the big ideas of statistics is that things vary. Some people are short and some are tall. Some apples on the same tree are larger than other ones. Another big idea is that this variation takes on distinctive shapes that we call “distributions”. A short presentation will be given on the Statistical Enquiry Cycle, demonstrating that statistics is more than data collection, crunching, and then producing “statistics” and graphs. Science is one very fertile ground for growing statistical thinking, and science investigations often follow a very similar cycle to statistical investigations.
A simple activity that employs just a little science and some statistics will be undertaken. This allows rapid production of data, without the need for either technology or time consuming measurement or graph construction. It will focus on reflecting on how much variation there is between the data we shall collect both individually and as a whole group, and what may contribute to that variation. Although the activity is simple and can be run in classrooms with easily obtainable material. It allows rich statistical thinking and has the potential to move on to more sophisticated statistical and scientific ideas.