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Personal technology and data analysis

Kissane, B. (1998) Personal technology and data analysis. Reflections, 23 (4). pp. 40-44.

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It is a commonplace observation that we live in an information age. Indeed, phrases like the 'information super highway' and 'information technology' are frequently heard in everyday conversation. Although all parts of the school curriculum have a proper role in educating future citizens to deal appropriately with information, mathematics curricula have a special responsibility in this regard, convincingly argued by Jane Watson in her keynote address to the 1997 MANSW Conference.

Similarly, in a chapter entitled 'Uncertainty' in the wonderful book, On the shoulders of giants, (National Research Council, 1990) the statistician David Moore argued a case for statistics in its own right, as a distinctively different form of thinking:

Statistics has some claim to being a fundamental method of human inquiry, a general way of thinking that is more important than any of the specific facts or techniques that make up the discipline. If the purpose of education is to develop broad intellectual skills, statistics merits an essential place in teaching and learning. Education should introduce students to literary and historical methods; to the political and social analysis of human societies; to the probing of nature by experimental science; and to the power of abstraction and deduction in mathematics. Reasoning from uncertain empirical data is a similarly powerful and pervasive intellectual method.

Why teach about data and chance? Statistics and probability are useful in practice. Data analysis in particular helps the learning of basic mathematics. But, most important, it is because statistics is an independent and fundamental intellectual method that it deserves attention in the school curriculum.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: The Mathematical Association of New South Wales, Inc.
Publisher's Website:
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