School of Mathematical Sciences

Colloquium

Wednesday, October 15, 2006

3:35 – 4:25 p.m.

Ross 2238 (Conference Room)

Speaker:

Clark Dollard

“Pre-service Elementary Teachers’ Thinking About Situations Involving Probability”

In this talk, I will present some of the results from my dissertation research, which was focused on how pre-service elementary teachers think about situations involving fundamental concepts of probability. Twenty-four pre-service elementary teachers who had not yet studied probability as part of their pre-service elementary mathematics coursework were interviewed using a task-based interview. The results indicated that many of them did not have an adequate understanding of the basic concepts necessary for a meaningful understanding of probability. One third of the participants either did not know the meaning of probability or gave an inadequate response when asked to evaluate a simple probabilistic event with equally likely outcomes. More than three fourths of the participants did not have an adequate understanding of theoretical probability, experimental probability, and/or the law of large numbers. Participants’ responses to mathematically equivalent questions focused on compound events were inconsistent and very sensitive to the framing of the questions. The results of this study suggest that mathematics teacher educators need to provide their pre-service elementary students with instruction and experiences that will enable them to develop a meaningful understanding of the basic concepts of probability.