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Characterizing student understanding of variation within a STEM context: improving catapults


Watson, J and Fitzallen, N and Wright, S and Kelly, B, Characterizing student understanding of variation within a STEM context: improving catapults, Statistics Education Research Journal, 21, (1) pp. 1-25. ISSN 1570-1824 (2022) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

© International Association for Statistical Education (IASE/ISI), February 2022

DOI: doi:10.52041/serj.v21i1.7


STEM learning experiences at the school level provide both opportunities and challenges for exploring studentsí understanding of statistical concepts. This report focuses on data handling and informal inference embedded in a STEM context, that is, of testing, adjusting, and retesting catapults. In particular, the learning goal was for Grade 4 students (aged 9-10 years) to build on their developing understanding of variation while learning about the science topic of force as demonstrated by two configurations of catapults causing ping pong balls to be launched different distances. This report focuses on the studentsí experiences of variation that were associated with the activity from a structural perspective during implementation. The analysis, employing various aspects of the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes, points to the potential contribution of Multimodal functioning in identifying and characterizing understanding of variation in a new context. The activity took place with 50 students in two classes, with data collected from student workbooks and graphs created in TinkerPlots. Results suggest that meaningful engagement with context can provide support for developing understanding of the concept of variation

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:STEM, catapults, grade 4, variation, data collection, data analysis
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Curriculum and pedagogy
Research Field:Mathematics and numeracy curriculum and pedagogy
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Learner and learning
Objective Field:Primary education
UTAS Author:Watson, J (Professor Jane Watson)
UTAS Author:Fitzallen, N (Dr Noleine Fitzallen)
UTAS Author:Wright, S (Mrs Suzie Wright)
UTAS Author:Kelly, B (Mr Ben Kelly)
ID Code:149785
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP150100120)
Deposited By:Office of the Faculty of Education
Deposited On:2022-04-12
Last Modified:2022-05-04
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