W11: The Role of Concept Images in Developing Statistical Understanding

Gail Burrill (Michigan State University)


Too often, students have fragile and ill-formed mental images of core statistical ideas such as mean, variability or distribution, leading to misunderstandings and the inability to apply the concepts appropriately. In particular this affects students who need such grounding, denying them access to the statistical literacy that is important for citizenship and many careers and professions. Dynamic interactive technology can provide all students with opportunities to build such mental structures by taking meaningful statistical actions, identifying the consequences, and reflecting on those consequences, with appropriate instructional guidance. The session will engage participants in exploring interactive mental “videos” and considering how they can be used to develop robust concept images, including a brief overview of the results of a research project where preservice elementary teachers worked through activities targeted at the development of these core concepts.

In this session participants will

  • Consider research supporting the use of visual images to build conceptual knowledge and identify ways in which this might occur,
  • Understand that slowing down the rush to formulas and techniques can enable students to build understanding that will transfer as ideas become more complex,
  • Identify characteristics of activities that support the development of robust images of key statistical concepts,
  • Recognize how the strategic use of interactive dynamic technology can create a learning environment for fostering the development of conceptual understanding,
  • Identify common misunderstandings related to core statistical ideas and examine how interactive dynamic technology can help students avoid these.