School Math

Published: October 11 2011


Tougher national math standards will mean students in middle school will get an early dose of statistics, but states and school districts have few reliable methods to test student improvement in the subject.

With a two-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation, University of Florida researchers are developing better assessment tools for middle and high school students’ progress in statistics. Researchers say schools need a new testing model because of how much statistical thinking differs from standard mathematical thinking.

Tim Jacobbe/UF statistics researcher: “One of the common thing that happens in education is that we’re teaching at a too high of a level for students. And if we’re teaching at that level, they may be able to imitate and memorize, and regurgitate what you’re hoping to get out of an answer, but if you’re not teaching it to their level, they’re not going to learn it in depth.”

The new assessment tool will help teachers target where students begin the school year so they can better plan instruction. Researchers are basing their testing instrument on the American Statistical Association guidelines that identify three developmental levels for learning statistics.

Tim Jacobbe/UF statistics researcher: “And so they identify level A, level B and level C but just because your dealing with high school students does not mean they’re re not at level A, which would be considered an elementary level. So if that’s where they are in their thinking, especially in light of there not being very many standards in grades K-5 now, we really need to see where the students are at before we begin instructing them.”

Initial pilot testing will start in several school districts in Florida and Georgia, then districts in four other states will join the study for larger-scale testing.