The reasoning behind informal statistical inference

Katie Makar, Arthur Bakker, Dani Ben-Zvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Informal statistical inference (ISI) has been a frequent focus of recent research in statistics education. Considering the role that context plays in developing ISI calls into question the need to be more explicit about the reasoning that underpins ISI. This paper uses educational literature on informal statistical inference and philosophical literature on inference to argue that in order for students to generate informal statistical inferences, there are a number of interrelated key elements that are needed to support their informal inferential reasoning. In particular, we claim that ISI is nurtured by statistical knowledge, knowledge about the problem context, and useful norms and habits developed over time, and is supported by an inquiry-based environment (tasks, tools, scaffolds). We adopt Peirce's and Dewey's view that inquiry is a sense-making process driven by doubt and belief, leading to inferences and explanations. To illustrate the roles that these elements play in supporting students to generate informal statistical inferences, we provide an analysis of three sixth-graders' (aged 12) informal inferential reasoning-the reasoning processes leading to their informal statistical inferences.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)152-173
Number of pages22
JournalMathematical Thinking and Learning
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • General Mathematics


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