A Computer-Based Curriculum in Probability and Statistics
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US National Science Foundation Grant MDR-8954626
Starting date: 

ChancePlus was a four-year project to develop and field test materials for teaching probability and statistics at the high-school level using computers. The software and materials were influenced by NCTM's Curriculum Standards and by our prior research concerning the nature of student intuitions about probability and statistics. For information on our team, see ChancePlus [staff] .

Major Outcomes

  1. We developed two Macintosh software tools: DataScope ® , a powerful and easy-to-use data-analysis tool with accompanying data sets, and Prob Sim ® , a generic, probability-modeling device designed for teaching probability and sampling via simulation. The programs, along with instructional materials and user's guides, were published by Intellimation and by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, Inc. and are now available from us. Both programs were positively reviewed in The Mathematics Teacher (1996, 4 , 359-360) and in the Statistics Teacher Network (Winter, 1995).

  2. A series of activity-based computer-supported instructional units on data analysis and probability for high-school or introductory college courses, published along with the software.

  3. Research , which included several new studies of student intuitions about probability and implications for teaching probability and statistics, appeared in over 20 journal and book publications and 25 presentations and workshops given at various research centers and professional meetings. See our list of available papers.

  4. Statistical Reasoning Assessment , a collection of assessment tools for monitoring changes in attitudes about and understandings of probability and statistics. These items, which were largely based on similar items used in our research, have been adapted and included in a number of subsequent studies and projects and in a number of different countries. This instrument was developed in collaboration with Joan Garfield at the University of Minnesota.

Evaluation of Materials

Our materials were designed to support an inquiry method of instruction, wherein students are encouraged to:

  • make predictions based on their intuitions
  • test and revise predictions through simulation and/or analysis of data
  • work collaboratively with other students
  • express themselves clearly both in oral and written communication
  • cultivate a reflective and questioning disposition.

The effectiveness of instruction using the software and curricular materials was assessed using the Statistical Reasoning Assessment at a number of sites. This instrument was designed to assess student understanding of a number of key concepts in probability and statistics. For most concepts we targeted, the number of students showing understanding grew by between 10% and 20% over instruction. However, the materials have been continually refined, and in the latest implementation (with high-school age students at SummerMath) the effectiveness appears to have improved. Whereas only about 20% of the students were judged as reasoning probabilistically before the two-week workshop, the proportion increased to 73% after the workshop. (In contrast, about 40% of surveyed college students who have had more traditional instruction in statistics show comparable understanding on the same set of items.

NSF LogoThis project was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (MDR-8954626). Opinions expressed here are those of the project staff and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.