There are so many fun ways to teach statistics in the classroom. I believe that learning how to analyze and apply statistics is one of the most important skills a student can be taught.
Students will hear statistics on the news, read about research studies, need statistics in many college classes, and use statistics in most jobs.
If we want students to really learn statistics, I think we should make it fun! Here are some ideas for engaging, interesting statistics lessons.
1. Use Classroom Data
Students love activities that apply directly to them. So use their data to teach statistics! Have the class collect data and use statistics to organize and analyze the data.
Here are some ideas:
- height (measure each student in the class)
- food preferences (favorite flavor of ice cream, favorite snack)
- sports (sports they play, favorite sport to watch)
- clubs (are they in drama, dance, Beta)
- favorite school subject
- pets at home
- number of siblings
The list goes on and on. You can even gather data on more than one topic. Then you could create two-way frequency tables, side by side histograms, and more.
I would create questions ahead of time for students to answer after they’ve gathered the data. Then have them work together or individually to answer the questions.
2. Use School Data
Gathering school data can be a great way to teach statistics. You can have students set up a poll area outside your classroom or in the lunchroom or parking lot.
They can ask their schoolmates questions and organize the data.
If you don’t want students to go outside your room, they can create digital surveys with Google Forms or Survey Monkey.
You could use the same questions from #1 and compare the class data to the school data. This can lead to great conversations about norms, the normal curve, and more.
3. Use Social Media
I’m sure all of your students have at least one social media app on their phone. And they probably would LOVE to use those apps in the classroom!
Instead of constantly fighting the phone battle, put those phones to educational use.
Have students create a question to ask their social media followers. Have them post that question to social media. Some options are:
- Create a Google Form and post it to Facebook
- Use Instagram stories to create a poll
- Post the question to Snapchat and let other students send back their response
- Use Twitter to tweet the question and have students tweet back their response
Once they collect a certain number of data points, have them analyze the data using the statistics standards for your class.
Here is an example:
Students could ask their social media followers if they like cats of dogs better. They could create a poll on their Instagram stories with those two options.
They may also want to ask another question such as what age group are you in or where do you live.
Then they could create visual representations of the data such as a two-way frequency table, a bar graph, a dot plot, etc.
4. Use Observations from Outside
How many times have your students asked, “Can we have class outside?” I know mine always did. And who can blame them? Being stuck inside on a beautiful day is no fun!
If the weather permits, teaching a statistics lesson outside is a great idea. A great place to start is a playground or outside gym area.
If you’re at a high school or a school with no playground, then take students to a grassy area or even the sidewalk.
Pick something for students to observe and record. Some ideas are:
- how many students they see walk by per 30 minutes
- the temperature over time
- types of cars in the parking lot
- weather over a few weeks (take students outside for 5 minutes everyday to record the weather)
- types of plants
I know that some of these are not feasible for every class. We’ve ALL had classes that we don’t want to take outside.
However, I noticed that some of my worst-behaved students really started to show interest in their learning when I took them outside! It might just be worth a try.
5. Use Interesting Studies
There are a ton of interesting studies available for free online. Find a topic that would interest your students, and try to find a student on that topic. Use these studies to teach statistics lessons that are useful in the “real world”. Topics could include: standardized testing, exercising, social media usage, bullying, etc.
Here are some websites to help you search:
- Core – for studies on just about any topic!
- Science Open – science studies
- ERIC – educational studies (perfect for finding school issues your students care about)
- Social Science Research Network – studies on health, psychology, science, and more
Once you find a study, print out the pages with the statistics portions. There many be a lot, and some of the data may be too complicated for your students.
Try and choose data that your students will understand (mean, standard deviation, graphs like histograms, scatter plots, etc.).
Create questions about the data and have your students answer.
OR put your students into groups and have them create questions. Then they can switch with other groups and answer each other’s questions.