A Statistical Dance

First lesson in statistics! How do you introduce kids to a topic that is so important and yet is hard.

Statistics is a practical subject where the aim is to describe the real world. Today there is a new breed of statisticians who use computers and mathematical models to hunt for patterns. A really cool job according to an article in The New York Times. But everyday life is also filled with statistics that are used to make us believe or act in certain ways. Understanding statistical terms is vital so that we are not tricked into believing everything.

A common approach to teaching statistics is to ask young children to look at clean and ordered numbers. Collecting data in the real world is often seen as too messy, go here to read about a different approach where 9-year-olds collect data in nature.

Children learn, think and explore the world by using their whole body. Thinking is not something that takes place in the brain. Parents, preschool and kindergarten teachers  try to engage a child’s different senses. Sensory bins are used to stimulate a child’s touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. Yet different senses are seldom involved when older children are asked to investigate and explore the world.

Think diving into a term such as frequency distribution should be a rich experience. Below are two videos from the British Psychological Society where some common statistical concepts are explained using dance. There is not a single number used to explain concepts such as correlation and frequency distribution.  This approach can be used at home or in the classroom.

Let your child watch parts of the video and let her explain what she sees – explaining can be down by using words, making a dance, drawing a mind map or making a song. Use the videos as inspiration for exploring terms and ideas using movements – not only statistical terms. Dance is often linked to expressing emotions but dance can be used to explore so many other aspects of life. It does not take much to get those dancing thinking muscles moving!

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