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Development of probabilistic understanding in fourth grade


English, LD and Watson, J, Development of probabilistic understanding in fourth grade, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 47, (1) pp. 28-62. ISSN 0021-8251 (2016) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2016 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

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DOI: doi:10.5951/jresematheduc.47.1.0028


We analyzed the development of 4th-grade studentsí understanding of the transition from experimental relative frequencies of outcomes to theoretical probabilities with a focus on the foundational statistical concepts of variation and expectation. We report studentsí initial and changing expectations of the outcomes of tossing one and two coins, how they related the relative frequency from their physical and computer simulated trials to the theoretical probability, and how they created and interpreted theoretical probability models. Findings include studentsí progression from an initial apparent equiprobability bias in predicting outcomes of tossing two coins through to representing the outcomes of increasing the number of trials. After observing the decreasing variation from the theoretical probability as the sample size increased, students developed a deeper understanding of the relationship between relative frequency of outcomes and theoretical probability as well as their respective associations with variation and expectation. Studentsí final models indicated increasing levels of probabilistic understanding.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:expectation, probability models, relative frequency, statistical literacy, theoretical probability, variation, modelling probability, Grade 4
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Curriculum and pedagogy
Research Field:Mathematics and numeracy curriculum and pedagogy
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Teaching and curriculum
Objective Field:Pedagogy
UTAS Author:Watson, J (Professor Jane Watson)
ID Code:105747
Year Published:2016
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP120100158)
Web of Science® Times Cited:16
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2016-01-13
Last Modified:2017-11-10

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