Role Play PLUS Flaws and Fallacies in Statistical Thinking
Lesson 2 of 21
Objective: Students will be able to take part in a reenactment of a real world statistical study in the 1850’s AND learn about flaws and fallacies in statistical thinking!
During this section of the lesson, I will expose students to several data collection and statistical scenarios. At first glance to the students, these scenarios appear like ones that might be heard on the radio, read in a newspaper/magazine, or found in some other capacity in the real world. HOWEVER, THEY ARE FLAWED! One of the most important skills that I want to teach my students is that it is important to “put their filter on” when consuming statistical information. Although not every statistic is intentionally tainted, there is a lot of junk out there!
To conduct this activity, I put the students in groups of three. Each person in the group is handed a different scenario to present to the other two. The students are instructed that for the next 25 minutes, they will be members of a student council on academics. Their job is to assess the validity of the statistical data being presented. (All of the scenarios have issues!) I instruct the students that each scenario will receive 8 minutes discussion time, and that I will rotate the students when the 8 minutes is up. (I use the online timer )
At the end of the discussion, I bring the class back together to analyze the scenarios. These are all written out for everyone to see on the PowerPoint. As the whole class brings up reasons to invalidate the data for each problem, I make a list of points on the board… Hence, a PARTIAL list of flaws and fallacies in statistical thinking is created! The students will use this list in their homework, so remind them to take careful notes.
After wrapping up our discussion on flaws and fallacies in statistical thinking, I roll out the homework assignment for the evening. I tell the students that they must create 2 flawed data collection/statistical scenarios (similar idea to what I created for them in class). This is beneficial because if the students are ASKED to create a flawed or slanted statistic, then they will understand the thinking that goes into it. I tell the students that they will use these creations tomorrow in a whole class activity, so bring them done! My goal is NOT to teach the kids to be weasels, but to expose them to practices that really take place in the real world – sometimes intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally. It is important to be sound mathematical consumers of statistics and part of the way to develop the skill is to try and create the opposite! What a great way to emphasize MP 3 – Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others AND MP 6 – Attend to precision.