Statistics and Shopping

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This lesson is devoted to demonstrating some "real world" applications of statistics. By examining some web pages about shopping and consumer information, students will see the many uses of statistics in this area and gain experience working with and understanding statistics in a practical setting.


Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  • have seen how statistics are used in everyday life
  • have learned to search for consumer-related statistical information on the Internet
  • have practiced analyzing statistics to make decisions

Standards Addressed:

Student Prerequisites

  • Arithmetic: Student must be able to:
    • work with percents
    • manipulate fractions in sums and products
  • Technological: Students must be able to:
    • perform basic mouse manipulations such as point, click and drag
    • use a browser for experimenting with the activities

Teacher Preparation

  • Access to a browser
  • Pencil and Paper

Lesson Outline

  1. Focus and Review

    Remind students what has been learned in previous lessons that will be pertinent to this lesson and/or have them begin to think about the words and ideas of this lesson:

    • Internet search activity --teach students to find information on the Internet efficiently and/or have them begin to think about the words and ideas of this lesson.

  2. Objectives

    Let the students know what they will be doing and learning today. Say something like this:

    • Today, class, we will be looking at various consumer related statistics we can find on the web. We will use the statistical information we find and analyze it to see if the information would be useful in the consumer decision making process.

  3. Teacher Input

    • Narrow the search using Consumer information links to find pertinent examples of how statistics are used in shopping and advertising.
    • Teachers may find it helpful to select some products or web sites ahead of time, and have the students stay focused on those sites. Time spent searching for information will go by very quickly, so it may help to have students perform a short search, but have some information ready to use for illustration when it it time to bring the class back together to discuss the findings.

  4. Guided Practice

    • Search on the Internet for anything that connects shopping, consumer issues and statistics. Each student or group of students can find and then share a piece of information about typical buying habits of certain groups of people, annual sales of particular companies, year to year changes in advertisement spendings, and so on.
    • Students may find it interesting to look for various ways of presenting the data (just stating the facts, or using graphics, histograms, pictures, etc.).
    • By working through the Sample Problems on Data Abuse , a discussion can follow about possibly misleading ways of presenting information.

  5. Independent Practice

    • As a concluding activity, ask students to search for answers to specific questions. Each student or group of students can come up with specific questions concerning consumer data, and try to find answers using Internet resources.
    • Then use the questions in an Information Challenge: "Do you believe it?" Students or groups of students can find a piece of statistical information on consumer issues, and then challenge another group to confirm or refute their data. Students do not necessarily give the correct information, making the activity more interesting. For example, having found that video games comprise about 25% of the toy market, a student can ask: "Is it true that video games make up more than half of the toy market?" Students can give hints, for example, the address of the website where they found the information.

  6. Closure

    • You may wish to bring the class back together to discuss different information the groups may have found, especially any information that statistically may be misleading.
    • Once the students have been allowed to share what they found, summarize once more the main points of the lesson in relation to the information the students found.

Alternate Outline

This lesson can be rearranged in several ways.

  • If time is available, teach the students helpful searching strategies and have them complete an additional statistics-related activity such as comparing prices and features of a certain consumer product and presenting the relevant statistics in a variety of forms (lists, graphs, tables).
  • To shorten the lesson, the teacher can select consumer-related information from the Internet and have students stay focused solely on that information.

Suggested Follow-Up

After this lesson, the students will have seen practical applications of how statistics are used in everyday life. The next lesson, Introduction to Statistics: Mean, Median and Mode, continues the student's initial introduction to statistics and helps students learn the difference between these three similar but distinct statistical concepts.

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