From public health to personal finance, statistical literacy is essential for careers and everyday life – K-12 Dive

Anna Bargagliotti is chair of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics/American Statistical Association Joint Committee on K-12 Curriculum on Statistics and Probability Education. Hollylynne S. Lee is distinguished professor of mathematics and statistics education at North Carolina State University College of Education and senior faculty fellow at Friday Institute for Educational Innovation.

Recent national and global events have reinforced the impact of statistics on our lives.

Should masks be mandatory for public gatherings? Should the purchase of a new computer include an extended warranty? From issues of public health to personal finance, statistical literacy is essential. Our ability to assess the data presented to us is vital for effectively dealing with uncertainty and making decisions.

Sound statistical analysis has been in the spotlight especially throughout the COVID pandemic, guiding our understanding of the threat of this virus and our ongoing efforts for recovery. It has never been more important to be able to navigate data, determine its legitimacy, and understand its biases.

To build this skill set among today’s students, the field of statistics must find a prominent and integrated position within our nation’s pre-K-12 academic curricula.

A focus on statistics education

Currently, statistics is included in mathematics standards and often minimally emphasized on state assessments. Yet, an understanding of statistics is essential for careers in the digital economy and for navigating everyday life.

A curriculum designed for statistical literacy must be based on the statistical problem-solving process outlined in the American Statistical Association’s Pre-K–12 Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education II (GAISE II). It must support an understanding of data in context, multivariate thinking and curation of complex, real data sets.

In lesson planning, there is a temptation to put the focus on formulas for principles, such as assessing confidence intervals or evaluating risk. But this approach encourages rote memorization over deep interpretation and separates the discipline from its breadth of practical applications.

Not every student will need to know how to produce, curate or analyze data, but every student will be a consumer of data. The ability to assess the data presented to us, determine its legitimacy, and identify the ways in which the presentation of data can impact interpretation are fundamental skills to navigating the modern world. Statistics touches almost every part of our lives, and, for that reason, it should be prominent throughout the curriculum.

What educators need

Educators are often ill-equipped to teach statistical literacy across subjects. These limitations are due both to the educational structure and the way we prepare our educators.

Educators often earn their degrees with minimal exposure to statistics. Without experiencing statistics as …….


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