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Basic Statistics

Activity Description

This lesson is a basic stats class, explaining sample-to-population inference, measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode) and basic variability (variance and standard deviation). Students complete an in-class worksheet on these measurements and what they tell us. The lecture then goes briefly into correlation and data interpretation. Students are given a homework assignment on interpreting graphs.

Estimated Time of Activity 1.5 hours + homework


Activity Objectives

  • Understand why we use statistics, samples, etc. to infer something about a population
  • Be able to calculate mean, median, mode, variance, standard deviation. Know why measures of central tendency and variability are important when interpreting data.
  • Be able to interpret graphs



PowerPoint (link coming soon)

Basic stats worksheet

Graph worksheet

stats ws answers

Activity Prerequisites

The previous lesson on scientific thinking

1. A transition from last class can be accomplished by reminding students of their Two Trees worksheets, and how they proposed to measure certain variables. Today we will learn how to work with the data once we have it.

2. Basic statistics and data interpretation. Class begins with more of the powerpoint lecture, which contains a notation as to when to complete the in-class worksheet.

3. In-Class stats worksheet – the worksheet further describes the stats discussed in the PowerPoint thus far. Students should get practice calculating these statistics. If they do not finish, this can be homework.

4. Rest of PowerPoint – The rest of the PowerPoint goes into interpreting graphs and being aware of confounding correlations. This is an important concept that students should be aware of but be careful of going too far into advanced statistics.


See Graph worksheet

The graph worksheet can also of course be done in class if the students need more support

Assessment: All students will be required to complete both of these worksheets. They will also be repeatedly required to calculate the statistics they learn today in all of the subsequent experiments. By the end of the course, they should be very familiar with at least the mean and standard deviation.

Instructor’s Notes: It is up to the instructor if teaching more advanced statistical concepts are possible and necessary. I had trouble trying to decide if confidence intervals and other important concepts should be included but ultimately felt that time did not allow this kind of depth, as I would then have to explain probability distributions, areas-under-the-curve, etc. and this class is not a Stats class. In most cases, I think only an understanding of the necessity of measures of variability is needed for high school students. E.G., my first stats class was in grad school.


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