Statistics education research, Variation, Students’ experiences, Practice of statistics, STEM education, TinkerPlots


STEM learning experiences at the school level provide both opportunities and challenges for exploring students’ understanding of statistical concepts. This report focuses on data handling and informal inference embedded in a STEM context, that is, of testing, adjusting, and retesting catapults. In particular, the learning goal was for Grade 4 (aged 9–10 years) students to build on their developing understanding of variation while learning about the science topic of force as demonstrated by two configurations of catapults causing ping pong balls to be launched different distances. This report focuses on the students’ experiences of variation that were associated with the activity from a structural perspective during implementation. The analysis, employing various aspects of the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes, points to the potential contribution of multimodal functioning in identifying and characterizing understanding of variation in a new context. The activity took place with 50 students in two classes with data collected from student workbooks. Results suggest that meaningful engagement with context can provide support for developing understanding of the concept of variation.


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