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ERIC Number: EJ1044621
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Sep
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 7
ISSN: ISSN-0025-5769
Probability & Perception: The Representativeness Heuristic in Action
Lu, Yun; Vasko, Francis J.; Drummond, Trevor J.; Vasko, Lisa E.
Mathematics Teacher, v108 n2 p126-131 Sep 2014
If the prospective students of probability lack a background in mathematical proofs, hands-on classroom activities may work well to help them to learn to analyze problems correctly. For example, students may physically roll a die twice to count and compare the frequency of the sequences. Tools such as graphing calculators or Microsoft Excel® spreadsheets may be used to simulate the process of rolling a die a large number of times. This article describes how the authors conducted a classroom activity to investigate equally likely probability in a class of twenty-four students who were college freshman business majors. The majority had not taken a proof-centric course and had no knowledge of probability other than their cumulative education (elementary school through high school). The eighty-minute class session was divided into four parts: (1) a preactivity survey; (2) probability simulation activities; (3) a postactivity survey; and (4) a teacher-led discussion. The article concludes that the student response to this probability problem clearly illustrates how strongly the representativeness heuristic can influence decision making by students who are unfamiliar with formal probability theory. Specifically, the process of estimating likelihoods for events according to how well an outcome is perceived to represent some aspect of its parent population is referred to as and defines the representativeness heuristic (Kahneman and Tversky 1972). Mathematics teachers must be aware that psychological factors sometimes influence students' mathematical understanding. Sometimes perception really does distort reality.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 1906 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1502. Tel: 800-235-7566; Tel: 703-620-3702; Fax: 703-476-2970; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A