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Crossing the liminal space: students’ understanding of confidence intervals

Reaburn, R ORCID: 0000-0002-4235-7732, Holland, B ORCID: 0000-0002-4628-7938, Oates, G ORCID: 0000-0001-7132-3198 and Stojanovski, E 2019 , 'Crossing the liminal space: students’ understanding of confidence intervals', in J Pettigrew and L Rylands and D Shearman and A Yeung (eds.), Proceedings of the 12th Delta conference on the teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics and statistics , Western Sydney University, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics on behalf of the International Delta Steering Committee, Australia, p. 176 , doi: 10.26183/5d5f53ed9c926.

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Abstract

This paper describes responses first-year university students gave to a survey asking them about theirunderstanding of Confidence Intervals, after their first introduction to the topic in a statistics course attwo tertiary institutions in Australia. Their responses indicate that whereas the participants could explainthat Confidence Intervals were used to estimate the value of a population mean, in general they wereconfused about the theory that enabled probabilities to be assigned to such intervals. Some participantswere also confused about the terminology used in inferential statistics. The results of this study suggestthat instructors should not underestimate how difficult students find this topic. We must be careful toinclude questions that require explanations of understanding, not just numerical answers that can belearnt by rote. We conclude that more research is needed into student understanding of confidenceintervals, including the suggestion from this study that Confidence Intervals might be considered as aThreshold Concept in advancing students’ statistical thinking.

Item Type: Conference Publication
Authors/Creators:Reaburn, R and Holland, B and Oates, G and Stojanovski, E
Keywords: confidence intervals, troublesome knowledge, student understanding
Journal or Publication Title: Proceedings of the 12th Delta conference on the teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics and statistics
Publisher: Western Sydney University, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics on behalf of the International Delta Steering Committee
DOI / ID Number: 10.26183/5d5f53ed9c926
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