eCOTS 2012 - Breakout Session #2

"Using advertisements to teach statistical literacy"
with Rose Martinez-Dawson & Robert Horton, Clemson University


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The modern student watches an average of 125 hours of television each month and during this time sees more than 1,600 thirty-second television commercials (Herr). In addition, more than 10 years ago, the average college student was on the Internet 100 minutes per day (Anderson, 2001), a figure that has only increased since then. For each 100 minutes on the Internet, approximately 16 minutes of these consists of viewing advertisements. One of the most popular sites visited on the Internet, Youtube, watched 7.4 hours monthly by the typical Youtube viewer (, is a platform by which advertisers reach consumers through the use of stationary and pop-up advertisements. In short, students today are inundated with advertisements on television, Internet and print media; we can and should take advantage of this and use advertisements as a tool to teach statistical literacy.

In the Hierarchical Model of statistical literacy (Watson, 1997), statistical literacy is composed of three tiers of which developing a "questioning attitude" is the highest level. This attitude involves a more sophisticated understanding of statistical concepts to challenge claims. Because today's student is accustomed to advertising claims both on television and on the Internet, educators have an excellent opportunity to incorporate them into course material as a means of developing this questioning component of statistical literacy.

During this seminar, participants will be shown a variety of advertisements including print advertisements and commercials accessed from Youtube that can be used to enhance this questioning attitude of statistical literacy. In addition, results from research involving the use of advertisements on challenges students made to statistical claims in advertisements will be discussed. The audience will participate in a demonstration to illustrate this approach to teaching statistical literacy. Participants will gain an understanding of the role advertisements can play in teaching statistical literacy and ways in which advertisements can be incorporated into their courses.


Anderson, K.J. (2001). Internet use among college students: An exploratory study. Journal of American College Health, 50, 21-26.

Herr, N. Television & Health. The Sourcebook for Teaching Science.

Media use statistics. Media Literacy Clearinghouse.

Watson, J.M. (1997). Assessing statistical thinking using the media. In The Assessment Challenge in Statistics Education, IOS Press.


Rose Martinez-Dawson
Rose Martinez-Dawson

Robert Horton
Robert Horton