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Professional Development Focus of the Year 2007-2008

Becoming Certain about Uncertainty: Data Analysis and Probability

Why Data Analysis and Probability?

As the world has entered an age of instant access to larger and larger amounts of information, the need for methods to deal with this data grows.  In response to that need, data analysis and probability have become more prominent in the mathematics curriculum.  The intent of this yearlong focus on Data Analysis and Probability is to help teachers, school leaders and teacher educators understand what comprises Data Analysis and Probability and to enhance the understanding of how the topics can be developed across grade levels. Principles and Standards for School Mathematics breaks this topic into four areas:  collecting, organizing, and displaying data based on well-formulated questions; selecting the appropriate statistical tools to analyze the data; developing and evaluating inferences and predictions based on data; and understanding and using basic probability concepts (NCTM, 2000).  This description serves as the framework for this focus.

Data Analysis and Probability is more than a single unit taught each year: it is a way of dealing with information. Starting with informal hands-on approaches as early as pre-school, students consider such questions as “What is our class’s favorite color?” and make hands-on displays to picture the data and make a decision.  As students move through the grades, questions become more complex, as do methods for analyzing data associated with the questions.  Students begin to look at larger populations, ways of describing central tendencies and dispersion of data, and different types of graphical representations.  The topic grows to include not only a single set of data but also relationships between two sets of data.  An understanding of probability becomes a key element as students realize that different samples from the same population vary, but in ways that allow inferences and predictions to be made.  The level of sophistication continues to increase to the point where students are able to design experiments that help them answer questions and evaluate conclusions made from the data.

In all grade levels, students’ learning about Data Analysis and Probability must include hands-on experience with data ranging from concrete to abstract forms. Additionally, Data Analysis and Probability provides many experiences with connections across the curriculum to number, measurement, algebra and geometry, such as finding patterns, calculating statistics, and using geometric probability. Since technology allows students to use large data sets and to access real data from outside the classroom, it is an essential component of Data Analysis and Probability.

The focus of the year gives all teachers, school leaders, and teacher educators the opportunity to expand their content area knowledge and pedagogical knowledge of Data Analysis and Probability.

Learn Reflect Strands

Seven Learn Reflect Strands featuring the Professional Development Focus of the Year will be held during the 2007-08 academic year:

Friday, October 12, 2007 - NCTM Regional Conference and Exposition in Richmond, Virginia

Friday, October 19, 2007 - MCATA Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Friday, October 25, 2007 - NCTM Regional Conference and Exposition in Kansas City, Missouri

Thursday, November 8, 2007 - PCTM Conference in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

Friday, November 30, 2007 - NCTM Regional Conference and Exposition in Houston, Texas

Friday, March 14, 2008 - WVCTM Conference in Flatwoods, West Virginia

Thursday, April 10, 2008  - NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition in Salt Lake City, Utah

The strands begin with a Kickoff session for all participants, continue with sessions for all grade bands, and culminate with Reflection sessions that allow participants to discuss the following questions:

1. How does Data Analysis and Probability foster connections among other NCTM principles, content standards, and process standards?
2. What role does the use of multiple representations play in developing Data Analysis and Probability at your grade level?
3. How are you thinking differently about your learning and teaching of Data Analysis and Probability as a result of participating in the LearnReflect sessions?
4. What do you do and/or what will you do in your teaching to connect Data Analysis and Probability with the real world?