Statistics, a Tool for Life, Is
Getting Short Shrift
By RICHARD ROTHSTEIN
November 28, 2001, p.
A22. |

BOGART, Ga. -- Many educators want
Nationwide, educators who recognize this imbalance are trying to get more statistics into the math curriculum. One place this is happening is Malcom Bridge Middle School, about 60 miles east of Atlanta. There, Jamie Parker recently taught seventh graders to make graphs called scatterplots in which an X depicted the relationship between two aspects of body size the students had measured. The graphs showed each student's wrist and ankle circumference, or height and arm span, or length of pointer finger and longest toe. Mrs. Parker showed the 12-year- olds how someone (at a newspaper, for example) could report data accurately but display them deceptively ó for example, by changing the scale on one side of a graph to make an apparent correlation seem less important. Meanwhile, down the road at Oconee County High School,
Steven Messig's Wouldn't it have been easier to test a few complete classes rather than randomly select from many? Kelly Blount, a senior, explained that socially similar students might take the same classes, so each room might not be representative. For example, Kelly explained, students from wealthier families tend to value education more and might take more difficult classes. If those people also tend to have common tastes in what they drink, preferences of students in some rooms might differ from those of students chosen randomly. Later, as these students analyze their data, Kelly may learn to say a "convenience sample" could be "biased" if drawn from a homogeneous subgroup. Students may be able to explain their "confidence" in the generalizability of results from a sample of the school's 1,800 students ó what the "interval," or range of results, might be if other groups were randomly selected. Using computers and graphing calculators, Mr. Messig's students will design several ways to display their findings. In 2006, when Mrs. Parker's seventh graders are ready for an advanced placement class in statistics, they could already know much of this math. This knowledge will be important because common debates about health, justice, economic and legal policy all assume familiarity with statistics. It is no longer possible to serve competently on some juries without more data skills than most college graduates have. Clifford Konold, a professor at the University of
Massachusetts, - in 1972 there were four graphs or tables in 10
consecutive weekday editions of
*The Times*, excluding the sports and business sections. - There were 8 in 1982 and
- 44 in 1992.
- Next year, he could find more than 100.
Interpreting these requires not only different skills
from conventional mathematics, but a Mr. Messig's elective statistics course this year enrolled only nine students. Because their statistical backgrounds are weak, Mr. Messig is taking twice the typical time to cover the material. But his students never benefited from Mrs. Parker's middle school instruction. Her math class includes data analysis because the State of Georgia, influenced by standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, now tests if seventh graders are learning it. Mrs. Parker's textbook this year includes more statistics than the old one. If the trend continues nationwide, t |