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Introduction to Statistics



Psyched for Research

Lesson 5:
Introduction to Statistics

Activity Description/Rationale                                                       

This lesson is intended to introduce students to basic statistical methods. Now that they have learned about APA format, research methods, and should have come up with an idea for their aerodynamics/final project, we need to help understand what collecting data means. They know that they have to “get numbers”, but at this point, they don’t understand what numbers they should be looking at and collecting, what those numbers mean, what to do with those numbers when they get them, and finally what their analysis means.

NYS Standards: Content Knowledge & Inquiry, Analysis, and Design

This lesson focuses on statistical methods. Students will learn how to take the “data” they have collected from their empirical observations, turn it into a meaningful analysis, and how to put this information into a report.

Common Core Learning Standards

As always, Common Core speaking, listening, and language standards will be thoroughly tested throughout this lesson, as students will be required to partake in general class discussions, as well as present their individual background research, methods, and results of their aerodynamics/paper airplane project. Students will use feedback they receive from their peers and mentors to continuously improve their presentation and writing skills. This is a common theme throughout the entire course and applies to all lessons and activities. At this point, math skills become imperative.

Goals: Process Skills (Basic & Integrated) and Attitudes/ (Enduring Understandings & Essential Questions)

Students will learn objective statistical methods and how to interpret their data. This is the point in which fundamental lessons are taught, and the following understandings and questions should be addressed starting from this point:

1)    Scientists rely on statistics to determine the effectiveness of their experiments.

a.     Why are statistics important? Why do we need them?

b.     What “numbers” should we be looking at and collecting?

c.     What do these numbers mean?

d.     How do we interpret our data?

e.     How do we report our data?

Universal Design for Learning/Differentiation

Students will be instructed to think about what kind of project they can design from the beginning of the course, knowing that at some point they will have to write a research proposal that will be critiqued and hopefully approved. Over the course of the ARM, students will hand in small portions of their final APA-formatted paper, such that they will continuously receive feedback on their progress. Students will also assist each other using peer review methods and constructive criticism. The general knowledge they gather over the course of this ARM will allow them to develop this independent project in any number of areas that may be of interest to them. If available, students will be paired with a mentor that is an expert in the field they have chosen. For instance, students may work with a college professor in their laboratory, conducting studies alongside graduate students. 


An important material for this lesson is a Statistical Methods textbook (or your research methods textbook would have a discussion on applicable statistics), a calculator, Microsoft Excel, and preferably access to a social sciences statistics program such as SPSS. The second half of this lesson should be conducted in a computer lab equipped with Microsoft Excel.

Estimated Length of Activity:

This activity should span approximately ten 40-minute class periods, broken into two sections: ensure ample lesson time, computer demonstration time/class discussion time.


Discussion of potential project ideas and the “Introduction to Research Methods” lesson. Additionally, about halfway through this lesson, students should be at the point in their own experiment where they have some data. This will help them apply the knowledge they are learning to their own work, such that they will have a better, more meaningful understanding of their data.

Activity Instructions:

Teachers should review any relevant research methodology before beginning this lesson. It is best to continue by using examples of studies, and beginning a class discussion of what kinds of data are collected, and what kind of data each set is. This will lead into a discussion of what we do with our data, how we analyze it, and how we interpret it for reporting. It is useful to use a PowerPoint to get fundamental points across. The second half of this lesson should be spent in a computer lab, such that the teacher can demonstrate how to set up data spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel, create graphs, and analyze data. A final discussion should address how to report data in a paper.


Students should be encouraged to begin thinking about how these methods apply to their projects, and what sort of statistics they think they should employ. Again, class or group discussions at this point are imperative. Students should use their own data to discuss what statistical tests are appropriate for their analysis.

Assessment and Reflection

Student progress will be monitored over the course of the ARM via individual meetings with the teacher to discuss their project and design idea. Individual meetings are imperative to ensure that students understand what kind of data they are collecting, and what statistical test they should use.

Instructor’s Notes:

Teachers may add or delete material as they feel necessary.

 Click here to go back to the “Psyched for Research” Introduction page!