Stats classes put the brakes on
Wellington College students investigate vehicle stopping distances during statistics lessons.
Sparking a chain of thinking and action was the aim when Wellington College teachers created and trialled a statistics unit for Year 9 and 10 students.
Sarah Howell and Martin Vaughan wrote the resource for the NZ Transport Agency. The unit is called “How far until it stops?” It is available online.
The teachers say that simply telling students about being safe is no guarantee of safe behaviour when they become drivers.
Instead, the pair saw an opportunity through the New Zealand Curriculum's emphasis on statistical inquiry. This requires students to analyse data and draw a conclusion around a particular problem.
In this case, the raw material was a random sample of stopping distances at different speeds and in wet and dry conditions.
Students asked questions, investigated the data for themselves and shared their own conclusions about the impact of speed and conditions on safe driving.
About the statistics unit
In this statistics unit, students use the Problem, Plan, Data, Analysis and Conclusion (PPDAC) enquiry cycle to carry out a comparative investigation of stopping distances under different conditions. The lesson plans and student workbook guide teachers and students through the steps of the statistical enquiry cycle. The aim is for students to develop an understanding of the importance of applying appropriate following distances to suit driving conditions.
How the trial went
This statistics unit was trialled with Year 10 classes at Wellington College. Teachers involved say:
- “Students carried out different investigations, then these fed into class discussions – so what each group knew and found out was shared, and we added our knowledge as teachers too.”
- “We were impressed by how much the students really thought about the context, and we were impressed at the depth of some of their insights. They came up with things you might not expect – they were aware of potential differences in stopping abilities of older and newer model cars or of modified cars with lowered suspension, for example.”
- “Looking at data and considering what it means often leads to a change in knowledge, behaviour or attitudes because when students discover things for themselves those things have more chance of sticking.”
More lesson plans available
This year, the NZTA has released secondary curriculum units in several learning areas. All are available for teachers to download and tailor to meet their students' needs.