Using data comparison to support a focus on

distribution: Examining preservice teachers’

understandings of distribution when engaged

in statistical inquiry


Aisling Leavy

University of Maryland




This exploratory study, a one group pretest-posttest design, investigated the development of elementary preservice teachers’ understandings of distribution as expressed in the measures and representations used to compare data distributions. During a semester-long mathematics methods course, participants worked in small groups on two statistical inquiry projects requiring the collection, representation, analysis and reporting of data with the ultimate goal of comparing distributions of data. Many participants shifted from reporting descriptive exclusively to the combined use of graphical representations and descriptive statistics which supported a focus on distributional shape and coordinated variability and center. Others gained skills and understandings related to statistical measures and representations yet failed to utilize these when comparing distributions. Gaps and misconceptions in statistical understanding are discussed. Recommendations for supporting the development of conceptual understanding relating to distribution are outlined.


Keywords: Statistics education research; preservice teacher education; distribution; statistical inquiry, data comparison, teacher knowledge




Statistics Education Research Journal, 5(2), 89-113,

Ó International Association for Statistical Education (IASE/ISI), November, 2006






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Aisling Leavy

R124 Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road

University of Limerick

Limerick, Ireland