Reasoning About Covariation

The Challenge of Developing Statistical Literacy, Reasoning, and Thinking
Moritz, J.
Ben-Zvi, D. & Garfield, J.
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Covariation concerns association of variables; that is, correspondence of variation. Reasoning about covariation commonly involves translation processes among raw numerical data, graphical representations, and verbal statements about statistical covariation and causal association. Three skills of reasoning about covariation are investigated: (a) speculative data generation, demonstrated by drawing a graph to represent a verbal statement of covariation, (b) verbal graph interpretation, demonstrated by describing a scatterplot in a verbal statement and by judging a given statement, and (c) numerical graph interpretation, demonstrated by reading a value and interpolating a value. Survey responses from 167 students in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 are described in four levels of reasoning about covariation. Discussion includes implications for teaching to assist development of reasoning about covariation (a) to consider not just the correspondence of values for a single bivariate data point but the variation of points as a global trend, (b) to consider not just a single variable but the correspondence of two variables, and (c) to balance prior beliefs with data-based observations.

The CAUSE Research Group is supported in part by a member initiative grant from the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics and Data Science Education