By JaCoya Thompson (Northwestern University)
This study explores the use of the Python programming language as part of a curricular unit in a high school advanced placement (AP) statistics class. We co-designed three lessons with a high school AP statistics teacher. In the lessons, students used Python to display and describe quantitative data sets, compare distributions of data, explain how outliers affect measures of center and spread, and develop a deeper understanding of standard deviation. Our results suggested that students developed some mathematical thinking: they had an understanding of distributions in context (shape, center, spread, outliers) and could correctly identify what would happen to a distribution if a point is removed or added to the original dataset. Students reported that they learned content in the lessons but had difficulty understanding how Python worked. This led to some frustration when they would get minor syntax errors. However, they also reported that they enjoyed being exposed to manipulating a real-world data set and creating data visuals. Our findings suggest that integrating Python in a high school mathematics class allowed students to engage in manipulating and visualizing real-world data without interfering with students’ understanding of statistics content.