Flaws of Averages

MIT Blossoms

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This learning video presents an introduction to the Flaws of Averages using three exciting examples: the “crossing of the river” example, the “cookie” example, and the “dance class” example. Averages are often worthwhile representations of a set of data by a single descriptive number. The objective of this module, however, is to simply point out a few pitfalls that could arise if one is not attentive to details when calculating and interpreting averages. Most students at any level in high school can understand the concept of the flaws of averages presented here. The essential prerequisite knowledge for this video lesson is the ability to calculate an average from a set of numbers. Materials needed include: pen and paper for the students; and a blackboard or equivalent. During this video lesson, students will learn about three flaws of averages: (1) The average is not always a good description of the actual situation, (2) The function of the average is not always the same as the average of the function, and (3) The average depends on your perspective. To convey these concepts, the students are presented with the three real world examples mentioned above. The total length of the four in-class video segments is 12 minutes, leaving lots of time in a typical class session for the teacher to work with the students on their own learning examples (such as those from the supplementary notes) to firm up the ideas presented here on the flaws of averages.

For more information, visit: http://blossoms.mit.edu/videos/lessons/flaws_averages

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