Pre-service primary school teachers’ knowledge of informal statistical inference

Arjen de Vetten*, Judith Schoonenboom, Ronald Keijzer, Bert van Oers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The ability to reason inferentially is increasingly important in today’s society. It is hypothesized here that engaging primary school students in informal statistical reasoning (ISI), defined as making generalizations without the use of formal statistical tests, will help them acquire the foundations for inferential and statistical thinking. Teachers who engage students in ISI need to have good content knowledge of ISI (ISI-CK). However, little is known about the ISI-CK of primary education pre-service teachers. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to describe this knowledge by surveying 722 first-year pre-service teachers from seven teacher colleges across the Netherlands. The survey consisted of five tasks using open-ended questions and true/false statements. The descriptive analysis showed that most respondents understood that descriptive statistics that take the global shape of the distribution into account can be used as arguments within ISI. Although a majority agreed that random sampling is a valid sampling method, distributed sampling was the preferred strategy for selecting a sample. Moreover, when asked to make a generalization beyond the data, most pre-service teachers only described the data and did not appear to understand that a representative sample can be used to make inferences about a population. These findings suggest that it may be useful if statistics education for pre-service teachers places more emphasis on sampling and inference, thereby prompting pre-service teachers to engage in ISI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Mathematics Teacher Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018


  • Informal inferential reasoning
  • Informal statistical inference
  • Initial teacher education
  • Primary education
  • Samples and sampling
  • Statistics education


Dive into the research topics of 'Pre-service primary school teachers’ knowledge of informal statistical inference'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this