Organization, Information and Learning Sciences ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2018


Learning to use data to investigate the world and make decisions has become an essential skill for all citizens. Play and curiosity are powerful motivators for learning. Inquiry – the process of asking questions and seeking answers – can engage the natural curiosity of young learners and motivate early learning. Recent research in statistics education has shown that children as young as 4 and 5 years old can learn to collect, organize, and interpret data they acquire through observation, counting, and measuring in a process of guided inquiry. Guided block play has been used for over 100 years to enable children to interact with mathematical structures paving the way for abstract understanding. Jerome Bruner conjectured that playing with a concept in concrete form prepares the mind for later abstract understanding and can begin at any age. Interaction with an embodied concept engages sensorimotor faculties and initiates neuronal activity that leads to useable knowledge grounded in experience. The frequency distribution is a core concept of statistics. Simple wooden cubes can be arranged on a ruler in the form of an embodied frequency distribution. This multiple case study explores how interaction with concrete representations of data structures in guided block play vii can engage learners in grades K-2 and lay a foundation for understanding a data set as an aggregate with emergent properties of shape, spread, and center. Activity Theory provides a flexible theoretical framework for describing the interactions and explaining the outcomes of a series of exploratory tutorial sessions. It is further conjectured that this early experience with embodied learning enjoyed in the first years of formal schooling may prevent statistics anxiety and misconceptions in later years.

Degree Name

Organization, Information and Learning Sciences

Level of Degree


Department Name

Organization, Information & Learning Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Patricia Boverie

Second Committee Member

Nick Flor

Third Committee Member

Karl Benedict

Fourth Committee Member

Sylvia Celedón-Pattichis




statistical literacy, statistical thinking, guided inquiry, embodied learning, Activity Theory, statistics education research

Document Type