Topic Study Group 13:
Research and development in the teaching and learning of probability
A211 and A210 Rooms
  • Manfred Borovcnik (Austria)
  • Dave Pratt (United Kingdom)
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Team members:
  • Yingkang Wu (China)
  • Carmen Batanero (Spain)
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Aims and focus of the topic study group

The organizing team:



     Aims and Focus


Probability and statistics education are relatively new disciplines. Both have only recently been introduced into main stream school curricula in many countries. While application- oriented statistics is undisputed in its relevance, discussion about probability is more ambivalent. When probability is reduced to its classical conception, mainly based on combinatorics or its formal treatment in higher mathematics, it can be seen as irrelevant, and may be abandoned to leave only the statistical element of the stochastics discipline. However, we believe that there are some powerful arguments in favour of a strong role for probability within stochastics curricula:

  1. Sound probabilistic judgements support people’s rational decision-making in important situations, such as medical tests, jury verdicts, investments, assessment, etc.
  2. Equally, reasoning about uncertainty is an important everyday skill. For example, the concepts of risk (not only in financial markets) and reliability impact on our everyday decision-making. Clearly, these concepts are closely related to and dependent upon probability.
  3. Probability is essential in understanding any inferential procedures in statistics.
  4. Probability offers a tool for modelling and “creating” reality. For example, modern physics cannot be formulated without reference to probability concepts.

Thus, the challenge is to teach probability through designing materials and tools that encourage understanding. The focus has to be on creating approaches to probability that are more accessible and motivating, utilising practical applications as appropriate. Pedagogy should embrace schools of thought such as the frequentist and subjective views of probability.

We see the emergence of approaches that promote the visualisation of abstract concepts. Simulation is one such strategy but there are many others. The use of technology also enables a change in emphasis from the technicalities of calculation to conceptual underpinning. At the same time, we recognise the fundamental importance that pedagogy addresses personal attitudes and intuitions in its approach.

With these challenges in mind, we have encouraged in our call papers and presentations at ICME 11 that will help us to share the diversity of endeavours in research on understanding and teaching of randomness, chance and probability. May future teaching take advantage of this exchange, which we expect will initiate new research projects on the teaching and learning of probability.

     Call for Papers


We encourage submissions related to the following topics:

Individuals’ corner

  • Ideas of probability in young children
  • Students’ understanding and misunderstanding of fundamental probabilistic concepts

Impact of technology

  • The use of technology for students’ learning of probability
  • Using software (Fathom, probability explorer, etc.) to study probability and sampling distributions
  • Special issues in e-learning

Teacher’s corner

  • Teacher education on the topic of probability
  • Teachers’ conceptions about teaching probability

Fundamental ideas

  • The probabilistic idea of random variable – distribution – expectation
  • The central limit theorem – convergence
  • Bayes theorem and conditional probability – independence – exchangeability
  • Probabilistic modelling – a probabilistic look at distributions

      Submissions of proposals and papers


Individuals may submit a paper for consideration by the Organizing Team of the Topic Study Group to be accepted for oral presentation in the TSG or as a paper presented by distribution within the group.

Send proposals to Manfred Borovcnik (with the reference “ICME 11 proposal” to filter the mail accordingly).

Format of proposals and papers
Length of proposal: 2 pages plus references; length of final paper: 6-8 pages plus references. Typing should be done according to the formatting template, which you may download from this site. The documents should be delivered in MS-Word (with possibly an extra file in Adobe pdf format for checking the layout). – The layout terms for the final paper are still subject to alterations (there is some discussion within the IPC on common formatting prescriptions for all groups).

Accepted papers will also be published on the website of the conference and on a conference CD. If you do not specify presentation by distribution, we will assume that you wish your paper to be considered for oral presentation. Because only a limited number of papers can be presented orally, you may be asked to accept presentation by distribution. The time for presentation will be limited to 15 minutes; some few talks of general interest may have 30 minutes.

h3.       Preliminary time schedule

Short outline/proposal (2 pages)January 1, 2008

Answer to the authors
January 22 , 2008

Paper Submitted
February 25, 2008

Papers reviewed by the organizing team
March 15, 2008

Final paper submitted and posted on the TSG website         
April 13, 2008

Note: Late submissions will be considered, but only for presentation by distribution. Any proposals to be considered for this must be submitted no later than April 15, 2008.

h3.       Other activities linked to probability education at and around ICME


Proposals by

TSG #14: Research and development in the teaching and learning of statistics at ICME-11

More information:

Team chairs:

Rolf Biehler (Germany)

Mike Shaughessy (U.S.A.)

Joint ICMI/IASE Study

This conference takes place at the ITESM, Monterrey, June 30 – July 4, 2008 (the week before ICME)

More information:

Chair: Carmen Batanero (Spain)

ELEE: Latin American Statistics Education Meeting
(in Spanish and Portuguese)

This meeting specifically directed to Latin American Statistics Educators takes place at the ITESM, Monterrey, July 4-5, 2008.

More information:

Latin American Statistics Meeting

Cileda Coutinho (Brazil)

Programme, papers, and presentations in powerpoint


You find here the schedule of the presentations of this topic study group. By clicking the title, you get the full paper. By clicking the pdf logo, a pdf version of the presentation in powerpoint is opened. This might be useful to get an overview on the key ideas; furthermore, it gives an authentic impression of the group`s work.

     Tue, 8th

Chair: Yinkang Wu

Issues in Probability Teaching and Learning

Ramesh Kapadia

Chance Encounters – 20 years later

Fundamental ideas in teaching probability at school level

Robert Peard

Teaching the Mathematics of Gambling to Reinforce Responsible Attitudes towards Gambling

Seth Ireland & Jane Watson

Concrete to Abstract in a Grade 5/6 Class

Santiago Inzunsa

Probability Calculus and Connections between Empirical and Theoretical Distributions through Computer Simulation

Sofia Anastasiadou &
Th. Chadjipantelis

The Role of Representations in the Understanding of Probabilities in Tertiary Education

     Wed, 9th   12.00-13.30
Chair: Carmen Batanero   Informal Conceptions
Dor Abrahamson

Bridging Theory: Activities Designed to Support the Grounding of Outcome-Based Combinatorial Analysis in Event-Based Intuitive Judgment – A Case Study

Francesca Chiesi
& Caterina Primi

Primary School Children’s and College Students’ Recency Effects in a Gaming Situation

Knut Ole Lysoe

Strengths and Limitations of Informal Conceptions in Introductory Probability Courses for Future Lower Secondary Teachers

Dave Pratt

Shaping the Experience of Young and Naïve Probabilists

Susanne Prediger & Katrin Rolka

Betting As a Pathway to the Law of Large Numbers – Self-Construction of Strategies for Initiating Conceptual Change

Lucia Zapata Cardona

How Do Teachers Deal with the Heuristic of Representativeness?

     Fri, 11th
Chair: Manfred Borovcnik   Panel discussion:

“Fundamental ideas in probability teaching at school level?”

Discussants: Manfred Borovcnik , Ramesh Kapadia , Jane Watson , and Yingkang Wu .

More recent trends in school curricula have removed probability at early stages in favour of data analysis techniques. This brings with it a loss of possibilities to prepare a qualitative understanding of probability and related concepts, the possibility to confront children with guided situations with random ingredients where they could get more directed experience necessary to develop their own intuitive strategies for randomness.
The panel discussion will focus on the following topics:

  • Relative merits and the potential of probabilistic and data analysis approaches
  • What are fundamental ideas in probability? Which are relevant for teaching?
  • How to extend intuitive strategies of the young students?
  • Approaches to probability (subjectivist, classical, frequentist)
  • Learning environments to engage students actively in the learning
     Sat, 12th   12.00-13.30
Chair: Dave Pratt   Conditional probability and Bayes’ theorem

Carmen Díaz & Carmen Batanero

Students’ Biases in Conditional Probability Reasoning

M. Pedro Huerta

On Conditional Probability Problem Solving Research – Structures and Contexts

Veronica Y. Kataoka, e.a.

Probability Teaching in Basic Education in Brazil: Assessment and Intervention

Hugo M. Hernández Trevethan, e.a.

A Practical Approach to Probability in the Context of a Science Fair

Laura Martignon & Stefan Krauss

Hands-on Modelling with Wason Cards and Tinker Cubes: First Steps in Logical and Bayesian Reasoning in Fourth Grade

Ödön Vancsó

A Parallel Discussion of Classical and Bayesian Ways as Introduction to Statistical Inference


The authors come from Europe, USA, Australia and Latin America, the English, the Spanish world, and the “rest” are distributed “evenly”. Some graphs illustrate the variety of approaches in the accepted papers.

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