New Zealand Statistical Association
2004 Conference

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Mike Camden
Education Committee of NZSA

Revitalising the Curriculum for Statistics in NZ Schools

The NZ Curriculum Project may give us the chance to move the curriculum for statistical education in NZ schools from being the ‘flawed masterpiece of 1992’ to being a best practice 21st century document. A quality curriculum needs these items alongside it: well-designed assessment processes, well-resourced schools, well-supported teachers and a community of statistics educators.

This presentation contains the views of the NZSA Education Committee, and will expand on the issues below.

The essence of mathematics and statistics at school in this century involves two sets of skills, which we could call deterministic and stochastic. We hope that the curriculum’s ‘essence statement’ for the subject clarifies these two aspects.

The curriculum in statistics needs a structure that builds on the existing one, contains an attention-keeping progression through the years of schooling, relates statistics to probability, relates statistics to the other strands of mathematics and relates statistics to other subjects. It needs to provide skills when needed by the sciences, social sciences and communication subjects.

The curriculum needs to make the most of the vast amount of research into the learning of statistics that surrounds us. An important aspect of this research that parallels the work of statistics practitioners is the use of graphics. Research suggests that children can make good use of varied graphics much earlier than the current curriculum requires. Another aspect is the growing clarity we have about statistical reasoning, thinking and literacy. These skills are essential for life in our complex world.

Curriculum design in statistics requires a process that needs lateral thinking, research into the literature, careful construction and input at the writing stage from both teachers and the statistical community. NZ’s curriculum revitalization project is indeed progressing on this track. If it is to succeed, it will need cooperation between the mathematics education community and the statistical community. It will need both the collected expertise and experience that NZ teachers already have in statistical education, and the collected insights of statistical educators from NZ and overseas.