Statistics is boring … because it makes you think!

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2009
Project end date: 
January 2011
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Sashi Sharma
Research team members: 
Phil Doyle, Auckland University
Research partners: 
Viney Shandil and Semisi Talakia’atu from Marcellin College, Auckland

Research Description

In this collaborative research study, teaching experiments were carried out in Year 9 classes of predominantly Pasifika students. There were three phases. During the planning phase the research team planned activities and envisioned how dialogue and statistical activity would unfold as a result of the classroom activities. Data were collected during the teaching phase, and then the data were analysed using a grounded theory approach. The findings have implications for the teaching of statistical literacy.

Our findings show that almost all Year 9 students were able to accurately extract information from statistical graphs or simple text.  However, statistical literacy is more than the ability to do calculations and read tables and graphs. Students were asked to go beyond this to ask questions of data and statistical reports.  Few, if any, students could initially ask a question of the data such as “How or when was the data collected?” or “Who and how many were asked or not asked?”  However, with suitable support, students were able to interpret and critically evaluate statistical information and data-related arguments. They were also able to discuss and communicate their understanding and opinions to others. This was achieved in part by providing thinking and questioning routines, such as the Questioning the Data Detective poster (Figure 1), which is modified from the PPDAC (problem, plan, data, analysis, conclusion) poster already seen in many New Zealand classrooms. It was also achieved by providing scaffolding for the literacy and contextual knowledge demands of tasks.

Project Outputs


Presentations, conferences and workshops

Developing Year 9 School Students' Understanding of Statistical Literacy. Workshop presented at Waikato Mathematics Association Professional Development, University of Waikato, Hamilton, 27 May, 2010.


Presentations, conferences and workshops

Shandil, V., Talakia’atu, S., Doyle, P., & Sharma, S. (2009). Developing Year 9 School Students' Understanding of Statistical Literacy: A Collaborative Research Project. Workshop presented at Statistics Teachers’ Day, Tamaki Campus, University of Auckland, 24 November 2009.