Bakker, Biehler & Konold (2005)

Should young students learn about box plots?
Bakker, Arthur
Biehler, Rolf
Konold, Clifford

In G. Burrill & M. Camden (Eds.), Curricular development in statistics education: International Association for Statistical Education 2004 Roundtable, Voorburg, the Netherlands: International Statistical Institute, pp.163-173.

In this chapter, we explore the challenges of learning about box plots and question the rationale for introducing box plots to middle school students (up to 14 years old). Box plots are very valuable tools for data analysis and for those who know how to interpret them. Research has shown, however, that some of their features make them particularly difficult for young students to use in authentic contexts. These difficulties include:

  1. box plots generally do not allow perceiving individual cases;
  2. box plots operate differently than other displays students encounter;
  3. the median is not as intuitive to students as we once suspected;
  4. quartiles divide the data into groups in ways that few students (or even teachers) really understand.

We recommend that educators consider these features as they determine whether, how, and when to introduce box plots to students.

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