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Introducing the Normal Distribution

January 27, 2019

I like teaching the Normal Distribution as it’s so obviously useful in so many situations! It links really well to psychology, biology and geography courses too.

I introduce it by asking students to measure their own handspan and then:slide3

After we’ve had a look at those, I then ask them to sketch three more:slide4

And then…


Basically, they’re the same kind of shape, with a peak at the ‘average’ and then tailing off to either side. How ‘wide’ the tails are depend on the standard deviation and this seems to be a fairly intuitive reason.

They don’t need it, but I like showing my students the formula for Normal Distribution as it looks monstrous! I also like that it has π in it but isn’t a circle.slide11

This topic is one that really highlights the difference between having a Casio 991 Ex Classwiz and not having one. It’s very easy on the 991 and not so much on the more basic ones.

I’d be interested to hear how you introduce Normal Distribution, what other tasks you do to practise and any thoughts you have on whether it’s worth students getting the 991 calculator.

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