Scientific Program > Topic 8 > Session 8E >
Presentation 8E1. The Benefits of Fitting the Statistical Poster Competition into the Curriculum

Linda Quinn (USA)


Presentation Abstract
Recognizing that there is a continuing need to encourage and promote the understanding and application of statistics, the American Statistical Association (ASA) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) sponsor a statistical poster competition for grades K-12 that allows students to discover and express their creativity in the analysis of data occurring in their everyday lives. We are bombarded with statistical information on television and in the newspapers, and with the increasing use of computers the use of statistics and graphics in particular is likely to increase. But where do graphics and statistical posters fit in the classroom, in an already crowded curriculum? Certainly the need cannot be ignored. A statistical poster is a visual display containing two or more related graphics (plots, charts, maps, etc.) that summarize a set of data, that look at the data from different points of view, and that answer some specific questions about the data. As reflected in the definition of a statistical poster, one purpose of graphs is data presentation. However, if we focus on the mechanical aspects of collecting data and rote learning of how to choose and draw an appropriate graph to summarize it, we still have indeed added another time-consuming activity to the crowded curriculum. Further, this type of activity will not provide students with the ability to use graphs for problem solving or even to critically analyze graphics in newspapers, on television, or in their textbooks. In the classroom, graphs and activities involving graphs can be much more. Students are deeply interested in investigating. They love to collect data, especially on themselves. The discussions and decisions involving the collection and classification of data can lead to rich discussions on the meaning and appropriate interpretation of data. The NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000) presents the vision that problem solving is the main goal of mathematics instruction at all levels. It calls for student involvement in statistical activities at all grade levels and indicates that statistical thinking should start in the primary grades with the creation of student data from class activities and surveys on topics of student interest. For the higher grades, the guidelines suggest that the emphasis should be on collecting, organizing, summarizing, and interpreting data from other school disciplines such as the physical or the social sciences, as well as the outside interests of the students. Discussions and decisions involved in creating graphics of data should ensure that students spend as much time deriving meaning from data as they did collecting and graphing it. If the data are related to study in other subject areas, then data-handling activities, while building problem solving and presentation skills of students, will also enrich their learning of other disciplines. The mechanics of drawing graphs are less important than the reasoning and interpretation demonstrated by students. Judging places more emphasis on the impact of the display, the clarity of its message, and, the appropriateness of the graphics than on the perfection the drawing reflects.


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