NSF Awards Grant to the Measured Progress Innovation Lab for Middle School Statistics Project

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Study will strengthen students' understanding of data and statistics to prepare them for college and careers.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $1.2 million grant to the Measured Progress Innovation Lab. The three-year grant will support the “Measuring and Addressing Middle-Grades Misconception in Statistics” project (MAMMS).

Critical thinking as it pertains to data and statistics is a prerequisite for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as information communication technologies (ICT). A growing number of jobs require employees to interpret and analyze data in a sophisticated manner. That demand is often at odds with the difficulty many students have with core statistical concepts such as interpreting and comparing datasets. Students often rely on rote procedures related to statistical measures without gaining a deeper understanding of those measures.

The MAMMS project is a collaboration between the Measured Progress Innovation Lab and the Leadership for Learning Innovation Unit of the Education Development Center, Inc. Through the MAMMS project, researchers will develop resources for sixth- and seventh-grade students and teachers to pinpoint students’ cognitive misconceptions related to data and statistics. The goal of the MAMMS project is to create resources to help students develop deep understandings of and improved attitudes about data and statistics.

Led by Dr. Jessica Masters, Principal Investigator and Senior Research Scientist in the Innovation Lab, researchers will develop diagnostic assessments to identify cognitive misconceptions, learning activities to engage students in real-world applications of statistics and data analysis, and supplemental activities designed for students reasoning with misconceptions. The researchers will also develop tutorial resources for teachers. The effects of the MAMMS resources on student knowledge and affect in statistics will be evaluated through a pilot efficacy trial.

The MAMMS project will use distractor-driven assessment, an approach that employs closed-response items composed of options that represent a specific misconception. This approach enables researchers to identify students’ misconceptions from incorrect responses and has been used successfully in previous Innovation Lab projects, including the Diagnostic Algebra Assessment and Diagnostic Geometry Assessment projects, both supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. MAMMS assessment items will also incorporate interactive technology to more accurately measure constructs; for example, asking a student to create a dataset with a specific mean can be more illustrative than asking a student to calculate a mean.

“To prepare students for success in the STEM/ICT fields, we must ensure they have a strong foundation of knowledge about data, as well as positive motivation and attitude toward statistics and data,” said Measured Progress President and CEO Martin Borg. “We appreciate the National Science Foundation’s support for this work, which aligns strongly with the mission of getting students ready for college and careers.”


The Measured Progress Innovation Lab, the non-profit research, development, and policy division of Measured Progress, is dedicated to improving education by developing innovative, evidence-based solutions that challenge conventional thinking about measuring student learning and empower all students to more effectively demonstrate their knowledge.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2012, its budget was $7. billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities, and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Patricia C. Ross
603/749-9102, ext. 2157

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