The Gorilla in the Room and Other Great Maths Investigations

These topics are a great way to add interest to statistics and probability lessons at KS3 and KS4 level, and also a good example of investigations that IB students can conduct. They also have a nice link to ToK – how can we believe what we see or what we hear? To what extent should we trust our senses? And it shows the power of statistics and empirical testing in trying to understand what is externally real and what is our own version of reality.

For each one, have the students make a hypothesis (if possible without giving the endings away!), then collect some data as to how the students react. Then look at how the data could be collected in a larger scale experiment (or how the experiment could be modified).

The first one at the top of the page is the “Fa, Ba” test. This is a really curious experiment that shows that what we “hear” is actually often influenced by what we see.

The second one is the amazing colour changing card trick by Richard Wiseman. This is also a great way of showing how we often fail to see what is really in front of us:

The third video is even more impressive – though it doesn’t work on all students. You have to set this one up so that all students are really intently concentrating on the screen – perhaps a prize for the student who gets the answer correct? Also no talking! Students have to count basketball passes:

The last one is a good test of whether students are “right brain” or “left brain” dominant. They have to stare at a rotating woman – some students will see this going clockwise, others anticlockwise. Some will be able to switch between the 2 views. If they can’t (I initially could only see this going in an anti clockwise direction) near the end of the video it shows the woman rotating in a clockwise direction to help. Then rewinding the video to the start – and as if by magic she had changed direction.

A 60 page pdf guide full of advice to help with modelling and statistics explorations – focusing in on non-calculator methods in order to show good understanding. Includes:

Pearson’s Product: Height and arm span

How to calculate standard deviation by hand

Binomial investigation: ESP powers

Paired t tests and 2 sample t tests: Reaction times

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