Scientific Program > Topic 2 > Session 2E >
Presentation 2E1. Learning, Identity, and Statistical Data Analysis

Paul Cobb (USA)
Lynn Hodge (USA)


Presentation Abstract
Students' learning of statistics is typically characterized in terms of their development of particular content-specific concepts and cognitive skills. However, recent theorizing and research within the sociocultural tradition draws attention to a second aspect of learning that concerns students' development of a sense of who they are in relation to statistics. This focus on students' construction of identities as doers of statistics relates directly to a number of issues that are of immediate concern to most teachers. There include students' interest in statistics, their persistence and motivation while studying statistics, and the choices they make about whether to continue to study statistics and to embark on careers that involve the use of statistics (cf. Boaler, & Greeno, 2000; Wenger, 1998). As Nasir (in press) clarifies, the relation between what might be termed the cognitive aspects of learning and the construction of identity is reflexive in nature with neither taking precedence over the other.

The analysis to be reported in the paper focuses on these two aspects of learning. The data come from a series two classroom design experiments conducted with a group of American students when they were in seventh and eighth grade (i.e., when they were twelve and thirteen years old). The instructional activities used in both experiments, each of which lasted twelve weeks, were designed to be imbued with the genuine spirit of data analysis from the outset. The students used to two computer-based data analysis tools developed by the research team during the first experiment which focused on univariate data, and a third computer tool during the second experiment which focused on bivariate data. The data generated during the experiments included video-recordings of all classroom sessions, copies of the students' reports of their analyses, and video-recorded individual interviews. The analysis presented in the paper documents 1) the relatively sophisticated statistical understandings the students developed, 2) the route or trajectory of the students' learning process, and 3) the means by which the students' learning was supported and organized along this trajectory.

In addition to the data sources listed above, a member of the research team conducted audio-recorded interviews with the students throughout the second of the two design experiments. The focus of these interviews was on 1) students' understandings of classroom obligations and expectations and 2) on their valuations of these types of activities. The analyses of these data indicate that, for the most part, doing statistics in school for these students was highly consistent with recent characterizations for data analysis within the discipline (e.g., G. Cobb & Moore, 1997). Further, all the students came to view this as a worthwhile type of activity in which to engage and all had developed what might be termed a statistical interest. In addition, all indicated that they viewed themselves as competent in statistics. In short, they were developing identities as people who chose to engage in, saw value in, and viewed themselves as competent at developing data-based arguments.


Boaler, J., & Greeno, J. G. (2000). Identity, agency, and knowing in mathematical worlds. In J. Boaler (Ed.), Multiple perspectives on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 171-200). Stamford, CT: Ablex.

Cobb, G. W., & Moore, D. S. (1997). Mathematics, statistics, and teaching.
American Mathematical Monthly, 104, 801-823.

Nasir, N. (in press). Identity, Goals, and Mathematical Meaning: Learning in practice for African-American students. Mathematical Thinking and Learning.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.


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