Teaching Statistics & Probability Using Models, Materials & Technologies

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  • 0:03 Making it Relatable
  • 0:43 Statistics Terminology
  • 2:33 Probability Terminology
  • 3:38 Using Visual Representations
  • 5:40 Utilizing Technology
  • 6:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rachel Torrens

Rachel is a Nurse Practitioner with experience working as a high school teacher, skin surgery center, and as a family NP.

Statistics and probability are used in everyday areas, such as weather, politics, sports, and healthcare. In this lesson, learn the basic terminologies of statistics and probability and several tips for teaching these subjects to young learners.

Making it Relatable

Educators agree that statistics and probability are essential for a wide range of academic and social fields. For example, scientific research and sports analytics both use these subjects! Children love science experiments and playing sports, so why do children's eyes glaze over when terms like median are introduced?

Well, often the material is introduced in a way that fails to appeal to children's prior knowledge base. When statistics and probability are taught in the abstract, children dismiss it as irrelevant. Luckily, these subjects lend themselves to countless real-life applications.

Statistics Terminology

Statistics is a mathematical field devoted to analyzing numerical data in a given sample. This sounds really boring, so a better way to introduce statistics might be asking a question such as ''How many books did you read this week?'' Recording each student's answer on the board will provide you with data to demonstrate the following statistical concepts:

  • Mean
  • Median
  • Mode
  • Range

Mean is the sum of all the answers divided by the total number of answers. This statistical term is often referred to as the average. Let's say there are 5 students in the class who answer the proposed question with these responses: 3, 2, 1, 2, 2. To find the mean, add all the answers together, then divide by the total number of answers given; so the mean is 2.

Median is the middle value of the numerical set. To find the median, the numerical set must be organized into ascending or descending order. We'll order our numerical set in ascending order: 1, 2, 2, 2, 3. The value that's in the middle position — which in this case is the third number — is 2, so that's the median.

Mode is the value that occurs most frequently in the numerical set. Again, if we look at our data, we see that 1 occurs once, 2 occurs three times, and 3 occurs once. Therefore, 2 is the mode, since it occurs most frequently.

Range is the difference between the highest and lowest values in the numerical set. For our example, this is the difference between 3 and 1, which is 2.

After applying these terms to a specific scenario, discuss how these values could change. For example, what if you asked every class in every school in the entire nation? Discuss how statistics can differ by altering the sample size.

Probability Terminology

Probability is a mathematical field examining the likelihood that an event will occur. Probability may be represented in two ways:

  • A ratio, which is the number of desired outcomes over the number of total possible outcomes
  • A percentage

For example, let's say Mark wants a piece of red candy. There is a bag with 4 candies in it: 3 white candies and 1 red candy. The probability of Mark pulling out a red candy is 1 in 4 and can be written as either:

  • A ratio: ¼
  • A percentage: 25%

Another probability term is a combination. A combination is the arrangement of items in a group regardless of order. For example, Mary owns 2 shirts and 3 skirts. How many different combinations can she make?

Mary could wear one shirt with each skirt to make 3 outfits. Then she could wear the other shirt with each skirt to make 3 more outfits. This gives Mary a total of 6 different outfits. The order of which shirt is paired with which skirt does not affect the answer.

Using Visual Representations

Using visual representations is a great way of making numerical data more accessible and can be accomplished by using:

  • Tables
  • Graphs
  • Manipulatives


Tables help to quickly organize a data set. For example, let's return to our first example of ''How many books did you read this week?'' We could've recorded the answers in a table like the one you're looking at on your screen now (below):

Student Name Number of Books Read
Susan 3
Mike 2
Charlie 1
Seth 2
Sadie 2

As you can see, Susan read 3 books, Mike read 2, Charlie read 1, Seth also read 2, and Sadie also read 2.

A specific type of table that is helpful when studying statistics is a frequency distribution table. A frequency distribution table shows the frequency of a particular answer. For our book reading example, the frequency distribution table looks like the table on your screen now (below):

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