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Presentation 1B4. Promoting Statistics Thinking amongst Secondary School Students in the National Context

Philip J. Boland (Ireland)


Presentation Abstract

In many countries, secondary school students have a very limited vision of both the importance and impact of probability and statistics in everyday life. Their formal statistical education (for example in countries like Ireland) is often of a formulae based approach and is rarely practically oriented. In such situations there is a dire need to inform both students and their teachers about the challenging and applicable nature of statistics, as well as how statistical thinking comes into diverse areas of modern life. I believe that a key issue in this context is the local relevance of statistical examples, and this can be particularly important in countries that rely on others for much of their educational material. As part of an overall policy of promoting Science in general in Ireland, presentations have been made to secondary school students and teachers highlighting the many uses of statistics and the need for more statistical thinking. In doing so, an emphasis has been laid on trying to use examples of local or national (in this case Ireland) interest. My belief is that statisticians in similar situations should endeavour to co-operate in assembling relevant material, which can be used to promote statistical thinking. With this in mind, I intend to demonstrate this tenet through a series of examples generated for Irish secondary school students.

I initially trace the historical origins of probability in games of chance, but quickly move on to highlight how statistical thinking comes into diverse areas of modern life trying to emphasise relevance. The use of statistics in Forensic science is illustrated through the use of an example of probabilistic/statistical evidence in the Irish trial for the murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten. The power of good graphical techniques is used to illustrate the value and/or impact of evidence in a case where two Irish University students were accused of cheating in their final exams. Other graphical techniques are also used to highlight the interesting nature of how the number of daily births in Ireland (and I expect most countries) varies by day of the week. The statistical properties of a good diagnostic test are illustrated with reference to the Tuberculin test used to detect Bovine Tuberculosis in Ireland (Bovine TB is a well known and persistent problem in Ireland of considerable economic importance) and plot its geographical variation. These and other examples are meant to highlight how we can try to promote the power and use of good statistics.


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