An visitor’s view of our school stats curriculum
Neville Davies, from the Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education, Plymouth University, UK, is visiting the Department of Statistics at The University of Auckland, the home of statschat. I asked him to share his first impressions …
Does New Zealand have one of the most innovative school statistics curriculums in the world? Yes! But how does it compare with the UK?
Well, in the UK for the last 50 years the school statistics curriculum has been hijacked by policymakers and maths teachers who believe the subject is a subset of maths and should be taught as such. And there is research evidence to support this.
This attitude has stifled curriculum development for statistics and helped to make the subject disliked by many school-aged learners. And many schoolteachers dislike teaching it too – it’s a bit of a nuisance that gets in the way of the maths.
But things are much better in New Zealand: here the school curriculum is data-driven throughout and is taught, learned and assessed accordingly. And that’s how it should be.
Everyone should have noticed that we are awash with data: bombarded with the stuff. As more and more people try to make sense of these mountains of data, very often information gleaned from them are at best untrustworthy and often misleading and wrong. It is a matter of common sense that young people should be taught to be confident with what to do about data they see in everyday life, as well as being sceptical about what others claim about them.
The best way to teach the skills necessary is precisely what the New Zealand school curriculum specifies.
By talking to the developers of the curriculum in New Zealand, visiting schools, talking to teachers, attending classes and chatting to students I am discovering how the statistics part of the mathematics and statistics curriculum is being implemented in refreshing and innovative ways. To coin a phrase used in New Zealand school statistics resources, I am being a ‘data and information detective’ and I will take back to the UK lessons we can learn to try to change what is going in that distant land. It’s a case of grandmother needing to learn new ways to suck statistical eggs!
Watch this space for updates.
Julie Middleton is an Auckland journalist with a keen interest in the way the media uses/abuses data. She happens to be married to a statistician. See all posts by Julie Middleton »