Difficulties in learning basic concepts in probabiity and statistics: Implicatons for Research

  • Garfield J
  • Ahlgren A
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There is a growing movement to introduce elements of statistics and probability into the secondary and even the elementary school curriculum, as part of basic literacy in mathematics. Although many articles in the education literature recommend how to teach statistics better, there is little published research on how students actually learn statistics concepts. The experience of psychologists, educators, and statisticians alike is that a large proportion of students, even in college, do not understand many of the basic statistical concepts they have studied. Inadequacies in prerequisite mathematics skills and abstract reasoning are part of the problem. In addition, research in cognitive science demonstrates the prevalence of some "intuitive" ways of thinking that interfere with the learning of correct statistical reasoning. The literature reviewed in this paper indicates a need for collaborative, cross-disciplinary research on how students come to think correctly about probability and statistics.

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  • Joan B. Garfield

  • Andrew Ahlgren

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