First Announcement

March, 2004

Dear Colleagues,

The fourth in a series of International Research Forums is to be held in New Zealand in July 2005. The Department of Statistics, The University of Auckland will host the Forum. This gathering offers an opportunity for a small, interdisciplinary group of researchers from around the world to meet for a few days to share their work, discuss important issues, and initiate collaborative projects. The topic of the fourth Forum will be Reasoning about Distribution. One outcome of the Forum will be a publication (to be announced later) summarizing the work presented, discussions conducted, and issues emerging from this gathering.


Statistics education research is emerging as important area of inquiry with multiple implications in pre-college and college curriculum design, instructional activities, technological tools that aid teaching and learning statistics, and teachers’ development. Over the past decade there has been an increasingly strong call for statistics education to focus more on statistical literacy, reasoning, and thinking. One of the main arguments presented is that traditional approaches to teaching statistics focus on skills, procedures, and computations, which do not lead students to reason or think statistically. This series of International Research Forums focus on current research studies that examine the nature and development of statistical literacy, reasoning, and thinking.

The SRTL Research Forums

The First International Research Forum on Statistical Reasoning, Thinking, and Literacy (SRTL-1) was held in Israel in July of 1999. It has been followed by the second and third forums in 2001 (Australia) and 2003 (USA). The Forums were co-chaired by Joan Garfield (University of Minnesota, USA) and Dani Ben-Zvi (University of Haifa, Israel), with the help of local organizers Chris Reading and Bill Mickelson. Based on strong support from the participants and the statistics education community SRTL is becoming a biannual scientific event, an alternative to large conferences. The gatherings are stimulating and enriching allowing participants become acquainted with key researchers in this area and to view their work in progress. The forums’ small size allows plenty of time for interaction and discussion.


The focus of this gathering on reasoning about distribution has naturally emerged from the previous three conferences. Distribution is a key concept in statistics, and yet statisticians and educators may not be aware of how difficult it is for students to develop a deep understanding of this concept. When students are given tasks involving comparing distributions or making inferences, they often fail to utilize relevant information contained in the underlying distributions. Curricular materials often focus on construction and identification of distributions, but not on what these distributions mean to students and how they interpret them. Realizing the importance and complexity involved in understanding this concept, SRTL-4 will focus on the challenge of developing students’ reasoning about distributions. We welcome presentations of research at SRTL-4 that address questions such as the following.

What does distribution mean to students? What are the simplest forms and representations of distributions that children can understand? When and how do children begin to develop the idea of distribution? How does reasoning about distribution develop from the simplest forms to the more complex ones? What are instructional tasks and technological tools that promote the understanding of distribution? What are the common misconceptions involved in reasoning about distribution? How does an understanding of distribution connect and effect understanding of other statistical concepts and how does it relate to other kinds of statistical reasoning (e.g., reasoning about variation, covariation)? What are the difficulties that students encounter when working with, analyzing and interpreting distributions? What are ways to assess understanding of distribution? What are useful methodologies for studying the understanding of distributions? What type of understanding of distribution is sufficient for a statistically literate person?


SRTL-4 Scientific Program Committee

Dani Ben-Zvi (University of Haifa, Israel) and Joan Garfield (University of Minnesota, USA) co-chair the Scientific Committee of this International Research Forum. The members of the Scientific Committee consist of Beth Chance (California Polytechnic State University, USA), Bill Finzer (Key Curriculum Press, USA), Maxine Pfannkuch (University of Auckland, New Zealand), Chris Reading (University of New England, Australia), Andee Rubin (TERC, USA), Jane Watson (University of Tasmania, Australia), and Chris Wild (University of Auckland, New Zealand).

The responsibility of the Scientific Committee is to consult with the co-chairs on details of the scientific program, and to review the proposals.

SRTL-4 Organizers

Maxine Pfannkuch and Chris Wild (University of Auckland, New Zealand) are organizing and coordinating the Research Forum. The coordinators are responsible for the venue, organizing the program and social calendar, and facilitating the Research Forum.

SRTL-4 Structure

The structure of this research forum consists of presentations to the entire group of participants as well as small group discussions. Once again we plan to keep the number of participants small, consistent with the nature of our previous working Research Forums. There will be a social program as well as opportunities for informal gatherings, conversation and relaxation.

There are three possible roles for participants in the Forum. The first role is to present current research on reasoning about distribution, the second is to discuss and react to research presentations while the third is to be a small group moderator, which is ideal for doctoral students who are not yet ready to present research but want to participate. As with the previous Research Forums, we encourage the participation of young promising scholars.

You are first asked to complete the Submission of Interest Form (see attached) and send it to Maxine (E-mail: before June 1, 2004. If you wish to present your research in SRTL-4, please include a brief one-page description of relevant work to be shared at the Forum. If you would rather serve as a discussant or a moderator in SRTL-4, please send a brief description of your background and qualifications for this role.

An abstract for your proposed presentation, restricted to three pages, is requested before December 1, 2004. Abstracts should include a brief description of each component of the paper: an overview, literature review, description of the author’s relevant research, a summary, and implications for teaching and assessing students. The Scientific Committee will review the Abstracts with comments and decisions sent to potential participants by January 31, 2005.

All selected participants will be asked to prepare a brief paper summarizing their research by May 1, 2005 to be included in the SRTL-4 Proceedings volume. Based on the SRTL tradition, we also suggest bringing videotape clips or written transcripts of students in classroom and interview settings to provide illustrations of what the researchers are learning about how students reason about distribution.


All sessions will be held at Grafton Hall, a University of Auckland student hall of residence. Accommodation will also be at Grafton Hall.

The program will begin on the morning of Saturday July 2, 2005. On that day, there will be an orientation to Auckland and a welcome reception. Meetings will take place on Saturday through to Thursday morning, interspersed with sightseeing around the region. Participants will need to pay for their own travel to the Research Forum but accommodation, meals and sightseeing will be included in the registration fee. Sightseeing will be focused around highlights of the University of Auckland, the City of Auckland, the unique indigenous Maori culture and the surrounding area including: the Hauraki Gulf, the East and West Coast beaches, and the Waitakere bush. The registration fee will be approximately NZ$600 (accompanying persons approximately NZ$600).

The Research Forum organizers invite anyone interested in participating in this forum to contact them as soon as possible. Initial expressions of interest are invited. Please use the form below.

Submission of Interest Form (doc)


Please contact: For more information:
Maxine Pfannkuch
Department of Statistics
The University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
New Zealand
Ph: 64 9 373 7599 ext 88794
FAX: 64 9 373 7018
Visit the SRTL-4 Research Forum Website at: