We are going to hold an introductory workshop about the statistics. The participants will be students who have just finished their 8th or 9th grade. The workshop consists of 10 two-hour sessions. The students have a very limited background about the statistics: They can compute arithmetic average of a set of data, create pie charts, etc.

So we’re looking for some good educational material to introduce the students to some of the main statistical ideas, methods and concepts as well as to illustrate the importance of statistics in daily life.

Your suggestions would be of great help.


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    $\begingroup$ How much probability can you get away with slipping in? There's lots of really accessible, interesting problems which I would be cautious of labeling as statistics but which would IMHO help convey ideas engagingly. $\endgroup$ – Sharkos May 13 '13 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ The birthday paradox is a good for this. $\endgroup$ – yiyi May 15 '13 at 2:19

Maybe you can look into:


You might also want to try some of the Opencourseware, search out more books and visit your local college library and peruse their book collection for ideas and materials.

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    $\begingroup$ Great resources. A middle school teacher gifted me an old book: "How to Lie with Statistics". Awesome, informative, relevant!! $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 14 '13 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ Seems a bit slow tonight...or slowish... $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 14 '13 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ amWhy Yes, that's a very very good book. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Behzad May 14 '13 at 9:34

I posted this first in a comment, but it is really worth status as an answer.:

A middle school teacher gifted me an old book: "How to Lie with Statistics" by Darrell Huff:

"Darrell Huff runs the gamut of every popularly used type of statistic, probes such things as the sample study, the tabulation method, the interview technique, or the way results are derived from the figures, and points up the countless number of dodges which are used to fool rather than to inform."

I was captivated while reading it, and remember feeling so empowered with the knowledge I gained after having read it! It is very highly relevant to life in the real world, as much today as decades ago, perhaps more so, given the information saturation of the current day and age.

When googling for a link to a preview of the book, I see that there are many powerpoints and pdf's available which are similarly titled: addressing the ways in which statistics can be used, and abused, both of which budding teen-agers will find engaging.

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like an excellent suggestion! +1 $\endgroup$ – Amzoti May 15 '13 at 2:53

Probability with dice and coin tosses seems like a standard starting point. Discussion of normal distributions (percentiles, standard deviation) also is pretty fundamental.

The great thing about both of those is that they're easy to illustrate. Probability is great to discuss in terms of games of chance (and while talking about dice and coin tosses is great to introduce the idea, most students aren't going to find those too interesting, so once you've taught the concept, move on to more interesting examples, e.g. Poker). The distribution of heights of students in a class is a standard example for introducing normal distributions, probably pretty good for introducing the idea and getting students to conceptually understand the concept of a normal distribution.

However, that won't be enough to really rouse the interest of the students. You'll want to show them that normal distributions are everywhere (that's a lie, I really mean Gaussian distributions) and can be used to model a great number of really interesting real-life distributions. Show them lots of these examples, and try to make them relevant or appealing to the lives of the students. Try to get them to visualise "bell curves" when thinking about any sort of population with a quantifiable characteristic.

Perhaps look at this Udacity course for some inspiration: https://www.udacity.com/course/st101


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