MTBoS blogging initiative, week 3! This week’s topic is better questions.
Kiri Dillon (@DillonK_Chch) and I have spent some time looking at ways to develop our students statistical insight – that is, how to encourage them to be deeper statistical thinkers.
Briefly what I mean… Here’s a sample of weekly income by gender.
Most of our students have got reasonably good at describing what they SEE in the samples, the median weekly income of these males is about $300 higher than the median weekly income of these females etc. But what questions or prompts can we give students to encourage them to think beyond just what they are seeing? Why might we be seeing this big difference in gender? Were we expecting this? What other variables might help explain this? What else might be going on? … Which might lead them to exploring things like:
which shows that the hours worked per week is also important.
And the best questions we have found to get the students thinking further are the simple ones…

Why?

So what?
And then just repeating them to students (you know, like your annoying five year old that just wants to know more and more and more and more…) It works surprisingly well.
I’m a statistics teacher and this is something I need to keep revisiting. Thank you for the reminder! And a question – what software are you using for your graphs?
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Its been great being part of this blogging initiative to get all those reminders of bits and pieces that we maybe haven’t thought of for a while! Great for me timingwise, as we start our new school year next week. I used iNZight (link) to make the graphs – it also has an online version called iNZightlite. Its really just a userfriendly interface for the stats software package R, but has been specifically designed for use in NZ schools with some really neat visualisations for randomisation and bootstrapping available. Students find it very easy to use once they have imported the data (usually an excel file will be fine, just sometimes it needs to be converted to a .csv) as its all just dragging variables down to play. The best bit… its all FREE 🙂 Have fun with it. There’s a MOOC too – Data to insight – run through FutureLearn. I’m not sure when that’s due to start up again. Have fun 🙂
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Thank you for sharing. One of my favorite reports is the BLS “Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers” (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/wkyeng.pdf). Do you ever look at that with your students? In my classes, it has brought up some of the questions you mention above, and also other questions that (I think) are worth studying or at least talking about.
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Thanks for the link Chad – I’ll have to see if I can find the New Zealand equivalent.
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Like most statistics sites I’ve found, not very user friendly, but I think you should start your search here: http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/incomeandwork/employment_and_unemployment/labourmarketstatisticsinformationreleases.aspx
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