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As background for the newer definitions of Statistical Literacy, we have decided to include the Oxford English Dictionary definition of “numeracy” (which is more general than statistical literacy). The definitions of Statistical Literacy are then presented after this.
“[f. NUMERATE] a., after literacy.] The quality or state of being numerate; ability with or knowledge of numbers. 1959 15 to 18: Rep. Cent. Advisory Council for Educ. (Eng.) (Ministry of Educ.) I. xxv. 270 When we say that a scientist is ‘illiterate’, we mean that he is not well enough read to be able to communicate effectively with those who have had a literary education. When we say that a historian or a linguist is ‘innumerate’ we mean that he cannot even begin to understand what scientists and mathematicians are talking about... It is perhaps possible to distinguish two different aspects of numeracy that should concern the Sixth Former.
1960 English XIII. 44 A certain lack of ‘numeracy’ on the part of those trained in the Arts can make them a little purblind to the implications of figures such as these.
1960 Rep. Proc. Conf. Univ. U.K. 23 If scientific barbarians are to be given a veneer of literacy, and literary barbarians a veneer of numeracy, I suggest the proper apparatus for it is a lot of deep armchairs in an open access library.
1966 Economist 22 Jan. 310/2 The need for numeracy today is enormous. Business requires..people who..have grasped the principles of reducing a chaos of information to some kind of order.
1970 Sci. Jrnl. Feb. 73/2 The scientist does, however, possess the advantage of numeracy and can usually acquire quite easily the statistical and theoretical background to modern management techniques.
1972 Daily Tel. 22 Jan. 2/5 The plan must be welcomed for introducing pre-school children to reading, writing and numeracy." (Note: The 1959 definition above is what is often referred to in the statistical literacy literature as the “Crowther Report”. We thank Peter Holmes, RSS Centre for Statistical Education, Nottingham Trent University, UK for providing this derivation from the UK version of the Oxford English Dictionary).
Numeracy is “a word to represent the mirror image of literacy ... On the one hand an understanding of the scientific approach to the study of phenomena – observation, hypothesis, experiment, verification. On the other hand ... the need in the modern world to think quantitatively, to realise how far our problems are problems of degree even when they appear to be problems of kind.” (Paragraph 36)...-”... two attributes [of numeracy]. The first is an ‘at-homeness’ with numbers and an ability to make use of mathematical skills which enables an individual to cope with the practical mathematical demands of his everyday life. The second is an ability to have some appreciation and understanding of information which is presented in mathematical terms, for instance in graphs, charts or tables or by reference to percentage increase or decrease. ...”(Paragraph 39) “... Statistical numeracy requires a feel for numbers, an appreciation of appropriate levels of accuracy, the making of sensible estimates, a commonsense approach to the use of data in supporting an argument, the awareness of the variety of interpretation of figures, and a judicious understanding of widely used concepts such as means and percentages. All these are part of everyday living. Good statistical teaching can encourage pupils to think in these ways.” (Paragraph 781).
(Note: The above is the first instance of the phrase “statistical numeracy” in print. We thank Peter Holmes, RSS Centre for Statistical Education, Nottingham Trent University, UK for providing these quotes).
(In International Statistical Review, Volume 70, Number 1, April 2002, Pages 1 to 25)
“...the term ‘statistical literacy’ refers broadly to two interrelated components, primarily (a) people’s ability to interpret and critically evaluate statistical information, data-related arguments, or stochastic phenomena, which they may encounter in diverse contexts, and when relevant (b) their ability to discuss or communicate their reactions to such statistical information, such as their understanding of the meaning of the information, or their concerns regarding the acceptability of given conclusions. These capabilities and behaviors do not stand on their own but are founded on several interrelated knowledge bases and dispositions...”. The knowledge elements are “literacy skills, statistical knowledge, mathematical knowledge, context knowledge, and critical questions”. The dispositional elements are “belief and attitudes, and critical stance”. (Extracted from Pages 2 to 4 of the article).
Note: Because of the importance of this article to the International Statistical Literacy Project the ISI Permanent Office and the author have given permission to have a copy of the article available for free at http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~iase/cblumberg/gal.pdf.
College report: Statistical literacy: “understanding the basic language of statistics (e.g., knowing what statistical terms and symbols mean and being able to read statistical graphs), and understanding some fundamental ideas of statistics.”
PreK-12 report: “the ultimate goal: statistical Literacy.” “The statistically literate citizen should understand the behavior of “random” samples and be able to interpret a “margin of sampling error.”” “A statistically literate high-school graduate will be able to understand the conclusions from scientific investigations and offer an informed opinion about the legitimacy of the reported results.” “A statistically literate high school graduate will know how to interpret the data in the morning newspaper and will ask the right questions about statistical claims.” “Statistical literacy is required for daily personal choices.” “An investment in statistical literacy is an investment in our nation’s economic future, as well as in the well-being of individuals.” “Statistical literacy involves a healthy dose of skepticism about ‘scientific’ findings.” “Statistical literacy is essential in our personal lives as consumers, citizens and professionals.” Available at http://www.amstat.org/education/gaise/
Beijing Normal University.
“Three components of statistical literacy [are] 1. Familiarity with using statistical thinking to deal with problems containing data. 2. Appreciating the role statistics plays in decision making by going through the process of collecting, displaying, analyzing data, and making reasonable decisions. 3. Being able to critically read data resources, data analyses, and summarized information.” (Quoted from Jun, Li. Statistics Education for Junior High Schools in China. Paper in the Proceedings of the 2004 Roundtable of the International Association for Statistics Education at http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~iase/publications.php?show=rt04)
Deborah J. Rumsey of The Ohio State University wrote Statistical Literacy as a Goal for Introductory Statistics Courses where she compiled different definitions of Statistical literacy. In that article, she prefers to talk of statistical competence, the basic building blocks that are needed before we can move people to do statistical reasoning and thinking.
“Statistical literacy is the ability to read and interpret summary statistics in the everyday media: in graphs, tables, statements and essays. Statistical literacy is needed by data consumers – students in non-quantitative majors: majors with no quantitative requirement such as political science, history, English, primary education, communications, music, art and philosophy. About 40% of all US college students graduating in 2003 had non-quantitative majors.”
“Statistical competence is the ability to produce, analyse and summarise detailed statistics in surveys and studies. Statistical competence is needed by ‘data producers’ – students in quantitative majors that have a statistics requirement, such as business, psychology, sociology, economics, biology and nursing – and possibly majors that have a calculus requirement such as those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”
From “Assessing Statistical Literacy: Take CARE”: Chapter 11 in Assessment Methods in Statistical Education: An International Perspective (2010) edited by Bidgood, Hunt and Jolliffe.
(In __Journal of the American Statistical Association__, Volume 88, Number 421, March 1993, Pages 1 to 8)). “‘Statistical Literacy’ is the ability to understand and critically evaluate statistical results that permeate our daily lives–coupled with the ability to appreciate the contribution that statistical thinking can make in public and private, professional and personal decisions.” (Page 1)
(In Gal, I. & Garfield, J. B. (Editors), The Assessment Challenge in Statistics Education. Book published in 1997 by IOS Press (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and The International Statistical Institute (Voorburg, The Netherlands)). Available for free on the Internet. “The skills required to interpret stochastic information presented in society, often in the form of media reports, can be represented in a three-tiered hierarchy: (a) a basic understanding of probabilistic and statistical terminology, (b) an understanding of probabilistic and statistical language and concepts when they are embedded in the context of wider social discussions, and © a questioning attitude which can apply more sophisticated concepts to contradict claims made without proper statistical foundation. These skills represent increasingly sophisticated thinking...” (Page 108). This quotation is from Chapter 9 of the book.
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