Teaching data collection

I recently attended a presentation on the Island and its use in a statistics class. The Island was developed by Dr Michael Bulmer, and is a simulated environment where students can practice data collection and study design.

We want our students to be able to use the statistical tools we teach in order to make data informed decisions, which means they will need to collect data first. Unfortunately, we typically hand students’ datasets in our classrooms. An appreciation of the data creation process can help to improve students’ reasoning when applying statistical analyses to the data (McClain & Cobb, 2001).

In order to develop this appreciation for data collection, I have begun brainstorming activities for students using the Island, such as the following activity:

  • Select a sample of 10 different people. Select one person randomly from 10 different cities. You can select from any 10 cities you wish. To select your sample, choose an island, then choose a city, then randomly choose a house, and randomly choose a person in that house.
  • Record which island they live on, which city they live in, their house number, their name, their age, their gender, their systolic blood pressure, and their cholesterol level.
  • Summarize the distribution of the following traits of people in your sample: age, gender, systolic blood pressure, cholesterol level
  • Share your dataset and your summaries with your classmates.

In having students share their results, we also create a window of opportunity to discuss sampling variability, one of the cornerstone topics of any course in statistics. I am looking forward to experimenting with this resource and evaluating its efficacy in developing students’ appreciation of a dataset.


McClain, K., & Cobb, P. (2001). Supporting students’ ability to reason about data. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 45(1-3), 103-129.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s