Students’ emergent articulations of uncertainty while making informal statistical inferences

Dani Ben-Zvi, Keren Aridor, Katie Makar, Arthur Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on informal statistical inference has so far paid little attention to the development of students’ expressions of uncertainty in reasoning from samples. This paper studies students’ articulations of uncertainty when engaged in informal inferential reasoning. Using data from a design experiment in Israeli Grade 5 (aged 10–11) inquiry-based classrooms, we focus on two groups of students working with TinkerPlots on investigations with growing sample size. From our analysis, it appears that this design, especially prediction tasks, helped in promoting the students’ probabilistic language. Initially, the students oscillated between certainty-only (deterministic) and uncertainty-only (relativistic) statements. As they engaged further in their inquiries, they came to talk in more sophisticated ways with increasing awareness of what is at stake, using what can be seen as buds of probabilistic language. Attending to students’ emerging articulations of uncertainty in making judgments about patterns and trends in data may provide an opportunity to develop more sophisticated understandings of statistical inference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)913-925
Number of pages13
JournalZDM - International Journal on Mathematics Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© FIZ Karlsruhe 2012.


  • Chance
  • Growing samples
  • Informal statistical inference
  • Probabilistic language
  • Statistical reasoning
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • Education


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