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Slanted Surveys & Statistics

Who wants homework on weekends? Find out how statistics can be misleading by creating your own survey to purposely slant the results.

  • Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Research and facts to support ideas are everywhere. Critical readers and listeners understand that sometimes this information can be misleading. Authors and surveyors can manipulate statistics to support their ideas in ways that stretch the truth. Find articles that contain data and statistics. The use of percentages, statements such as, "3 out of 4 people surveyed said that…," and ranked lists of favorites are all clues that you are reading statistics.
    2. Bias is an attitude that favors one way of thinking over another. Look at the statistics you found. How might a surveyor’s biases affect the statistics? The surveyor might employ a "choice bias" by offering several unpopular choices along with one favored choice. For example, choices for how to spend a Saturday afternoon might include doing really hard chores, chopping stinky onions, staring at the wall, or doing homework. Which would most students choose?
    3. Another slanted survey method, "presentation bias," presents one choice very well while the others are at a disadvantage. For example, the survey might ask which ice cream is best, and then present chocolate in a dirty bowl, vanilla melted on a paper plate, strawberry with lots of salt on it, and a big scoop of butterscotch in a bright bowl.
    4. Students work with a team of classmates. Brainstorm survey topics for a poll of students in your class, grade, or school. Think of response choices for your three favorite survey topics. Which topic would lend itself best to either type of bias? How could you change the question and/or the survey choices to be able to slant the results later?
    5. Use Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils to create survey sheets. Write the question across the top of the page. Write the survey choices down the left side. Poll the group. Record the survey responses with tally marks beside the choices. Calculate the results.
    6. Use Crayola Dry-Erase Markers to graph the results of your survey. Create a bar graph, pie chart, or pictograph on a dry-erase board. Share the results with your classmates. Discuss the ethical implications of bias in statistical data.
  • Standards

    LA: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade level reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

    LA: Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    LA: Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

    MATH: Develop understanding of statistical variability.

    MATH: Summarize and describe distributions.

    VA: Know how the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Students collaborate in small groups to develop a survey question or questions for their research. Encourage students to consider a question that is broad enough that a significant part of the school population can take part in their survey.

    Students research various careers and how they use, interpret, and gather statistics. Careers to consider include business, education, engineering, journalism, medicine, sports, and the sciences.

    Challenge student groups to explore ways sampling can be used to obtain slanted statistics. Students work in teams to ask the same question to different groups of people such as only boys, only parents, only English language speakers, etc. Another team can take a random sample. Analyze data to see if any patterns emerge.

    Students analyze television and radio ads, as well as ads in magazines to detect bias. How do advertisers use bias to influence people to purchase their products?

    Small groups of students develop a script for an original commercial for a fictional product. Students rehearse and act out their commercials for classmates. If possible, the commercials can be videotaped and uploaded to a class computer for viewing. Classmates view commercials and decide if they would or would not purchase the product. Classmates also identify any form of bias that they detect in the commercials.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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