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Statement sent to NZQA by the NZSA Education Committee.

External NCEA assessments in Statistics 2018
Dated 15 May 2019
External assessment and The NZ Curriculum

The Education Committee of the NZ Statistical Association would like to offer some general feedback on the 2018 external assessments in Statistics. The Committee would like the teaching and learning of
Statistics to continue to develop the potential of The NZ Curriculum in Statistics. We see the external assessors as being partners in this development. If shifts in assessment happen in 2020 and beyond, we would like to be sure that the teaching community is very aware of them, and we would be happy to help spread the awareness. Clarity and consistency of language is important throughout. This is across levels and between externals and internals.

Level 1 91037 Demonstrate understanding of chance and data
Some questions involve knowledge of contexts. For internals, knowledge of contexts is expected.
Consistency in this between externals and internals is desirable. Is there some method of providing relevant context information in the external exams? We are happy to discuss methods for this further.
The terms ‘probability’ (as used here) and ‘proportion’ (as used at Levels 2 and 3) should be used consistently across the levels.
The words ‘AND’ and ‘not’ (Q1b(i)) could be written in consistent type. The term ‘significant’ (Q2b(i)) should not be used in statistical work unless it means ‘statistical significance’. A word like ‘key’ is better.
We would like to be sure that NZQA ensures that colours used are effective for sight-impaired students. We are not sure that this is the case here. We think that pie graphs should be avoided. Bar graphs are better. In Q3a(i), the words ‘tend to’ are not needed. The question does later (Q3a(iii)) ask for ‘trends and features’.
Overall for this exam, we are pleased to see the use of real context, data, and graphs of the data. The exam is well positioned at the level of Curriculum Level 6, and covers a wide range of the ‘chance and
data’ at this level.

Level 2 91267 Apply probability methods in solving problems
Again, the terms ‘probability’ and ‘proportion’ should be used consistently across the levels.
In Q2a and b, the exam gives tables and asks useful questions about them. In Q3 stem, it gives the ‘written information’ that is mentioned in the Specifications, and asks for probabilities to be found from them. This is just one example of a style of using probability methods that is prevalent in the exams.
This style is within the expectations of the teaching community, as a way of meeting the Curriculum’s achievement outcomes. . However, in the near future, we would like to carry out a careful investigation
of the teaching, learning, and assessment of probability.
For Q3, we are interested in the geographical knowledge expected, and whether the map helps or hinders with the context.  The binaries ‘windy/still’ (Q2) and ‘wet/dry’ (Q3) are used. We are not sure that these make sense, or whether they need further definition. Again, we acknowledge the use of contexts and data.
The coverage of this exam seems to be incomplete. The Specifications contain ‘describing and comparing distributions’, with ‘shape, centre, spread’ via graphs; and ‘risk or relative risk’. The exam misses the opportunity to compare the experimental distribution and the fitted theoretical distribution in Q1a.

Level 3 91584 Evaluate statistically based reports
We question whether all students will be able to use the colours and the sometimes small text in the infographics in Reports 1, and 2.
We commend the examiners on finding three reports with suitable contexts, and for assessing in keeping with the Curriculum’s target of ‘statistical thinking’.

Level 3 91585 Apply probability concepts in solving problems
We like the use of simulation in this exam (Q2d).
We question how much understanding we can expect for the true vs model vs experimental relationship (Q3c(iii)).
We are very aware of how hard is is to create an assessment in probability. We acknowledge that the examiners have found some meaningful contexts, and that this is not easy. The exam covers the
‘methods’ in the Achievement Standard’s Note 4.

Level 3 91586 Apply probability distributions in solving problems
Again, we acknowledge that the examiners have found some meaningful contexts. However, the exam does not ask for visual comparisons of experimental distributions and fitted theoretical distributions.

The Concord Consortium hosts a number of data science games and projects for Year 9 – 13 students. CODAP makes data science accessible and empowers students to understand and analyze complex data without hours of coding lessons or years of advanced mathematics. A new collection of Dynamic Data Science activities is now available to get students working with data!

Also check out:

If you are involved in any citizen science projects around Aotearoa, let CensusAtSchool know about your project.

PS: Did you know the R coding language was created in New Zealand!

A few teachers have contacted us with questions and feedback about Question 1 in the questionnaire which asks if students are male or female, so in this email, I’ll explain more to everyone.

Firstly, it is great that you and your students are thinking and talking about the questions and answers! This is an important part of survey design.

Some of our CensusAtSchool questions match word-for-word with the official Census questions. This means that we use tried-and-tested and familiarly worded demographic questions which have been tailored to the New Zealand context, such as asking birth country and ethnicity.

Many people assume that the first question we ask (and that the official Census asks) is about gender identity. However, it is asking about biological sex.

It is easy to get these mixed up as the question itself does not say either one in the wording!

Added to that, there has been a tradition of using the word ‘gender’ in school environments when we really mean ‘sex’ because of the long-recognised problem of many kids getting silly whenever the word ‘sex’ is mentioned.

Now that gender identity has come much more to the forefront of society’s attention, this common educational workaround is now creating its own problems which will take time to fully solve.

Currently, the official definition Stats NZ uses for biological sex is binary. In the last two years, Stats NZ has tested adding a third response option using either ‘indeterminate’ or ‘intersex’. Of these tests, Stats NZ said the data was of very low quality and included facetious responses and responses made in error:

“Given the very low prevalence of the intersex population, the test results indicated that inaccurate responses for a third category would be as common as – or outnumber – legitimate responses for this category.”

If one of your students is intersex, I recommend they do not answer Question 1 for CensusAtSchool. Stats NZ advice was for people to request a paper copy of the census and then to check both boxes on the form.

Currently, gender identity is not yet asked in the official census and is not asked by CensusAtSchool. It is also not yet asked in other countries official census.

Stats NZ wrote that the reason not yet to ask gender identity is purely for statistical reasons:

“Our testing did not give us confidence we could collect quality information on these topics through the census. Writing census questions is complex and demands a great deal of expertise and testing to ensure the answers provide meaningful, high-quality data that can be used to inform decisions.”

This page is an excellent summary of the issues and the work being done in this area:

I hope this helps in some way towards your understanding.

The only national survey to comprehensively chart children’s views of their own lives is taking place across New Zealand from March 4. This year, we will learn from Kiwi kids on issues as wide-ranging as climate change, the amount of time they spend on digital devices, how they handle interpersonal issues, and their own attitudes and perceived parental attitudes to activities such as drinking and smoking by young people. Preview the questions in English and te reo Māori here.

CensusAtSchool New Zealand, known in te reo Māori as TataurangaKiTeKura Aotearoa, is a non-profit, online educational project that aims to bring statistics to life in both English and Māori-medium classrooms. Supervised by teachers, students from years 5-13 anonymously answer 30 questions in English or te reo Māori, and later explore the results in class. CensusAtSchool runs every two years, and in 2017, more than 32,000 students took part, representing 534 schools and 1,062 teachers.

CensusAtSchool, now in its ninth edition, is a collaborative project involving teachers, the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics, Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Education. It is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people, and is carried out in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the US, Japan and South Africa. The countries share some questions so comparisons can be made.

2019 Ihaka lectures

Rise of the machine learners:

Statistical learning in the computational era

Don’t miss this set of four lectures held from March to April. Get a group together, invite your  colleagues from other departments, or take your stats scholarship students. See the program: IhakaDLE19.


Read the latest submission from the NZSA Education Committee to the Ministry of Education’s request for feedback on the future of NCEA stated at:

Read also the latest submission from the New Zealand Mathematical Society (NZMS) Education Committee.

Both Associations endorse one another’s submissions on the future of NCEA. (The NZSA endorsement of the NZMS submission is here.)

Robyn Headifen and Marion Steele’s HOD day workshop examined the characteristics of good Statistics teachers.

They both recommended  SET Statistical Education of Teachers as professional reading. This is available via the US website:

Ideal professional reading for a department with new or developing Stats teachers.

There were many other resources for Statistics shared by presenters on the AMA HOD/F/UH day.


Literacy for University Entrance: Views from NZSA Education Committee

Literacy and Statistics

The Education Committee of the New Zealand Statistical Association (NZSA) is very pleased to
see that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is consulting on the University
Entrance (UE) Literacy List. This statement is offered as input into NZQA’s review (via, and is being made available on CensusAtSchool. We are part of a
‘subject association’ (as in the consultation document) with a strong ‘interest in the list’.
NZQA’s consultation document is at

We see it as extremely important that achievement standards from areas like and including
Statistics remain in and are added to the list. Statistics at present has two standards in the list,
with no proposed removals or additions. They are: 91266, 2.11, int (Reading only); and 91584,
3.12, ext (Reading and Writing both);. Other Statistics internal standards require a written report
and evaluation of evidence, usually in writing. We would like to see some more of the L2 and L3
Statistics standards count towards UE literacy.

Tension between text and other methods of communication
We see a tension between the need for written work and the need to allow students
opportunities to present their best evidence against a standard in a variety of ways.
We think it is completely fair that NZQA requires UE literacy writing evidence to come from work
that is written. It makes sense, at present, to exclude standards where this cannot be
guaranteed. However, If a large number of standards were required to be assessed entirely in writing, the
results could include student overwork and boredom, teacher overwork, and student flight.
We would like to see more flexibility in how students gain literacy, and a change to the difficulty
that many schools and students face at present. We see the need for a dialogue to find
solutions to this tension.

One such solution would be to require the submitted work to include a written abstract or
summary, for nominated standards. This is an important part of science communication across
many subjects, and would fit well with other methods of presentation.
Another solution would be to make some standards restricted to written reports, so they could
count towards UE literacy, and to keep others with open assessment.
We are aware of a strong teacher view that, under the present system, many students have
difficulty meeting the UE literacy requirements. As Statistics is the second largest subject at
NCEA Level 3, increased opportunities for UE literacy within our communication-focused subject
would be beneficial for many students.

Ongoing dialogue
In the light of:
● student difficulties in meeting UE literacy requirements,
● the large amount of UE literacy-relevant work often done at present for the statistics
standards, especially the internals,
● and the large number of students who attempt NCEA Level 3 Statistics Achievement Standards,

we would like to see a solution where more statistical standards count for UE literacy.
We are happy to expand on our ideas and possible solutions with NZQA, if and when that is
useful. ‘

To contact the Education Committee, please email the Committee’s Convenor:

2018 Ihaka Lecture series

Tonight is the last in this years Ihaka Lecture series. If you missed any you can watch them at: Link:

Speaker:     Alberto Cairo
Affiliation: University of Miami
Title:       Visual trumpery: How charts lie
Date:        Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Time:        6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Location:    6.30pm, Large Chemistry Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, Building 301, 23 Symonds Street, City Campus, Auckland Central.

In our final 2018 Ihaka lecture, Alberto Cairo (Knight Chair in Visual
Journalism at the University of Miami) will deliver the following:
Visual trumpery: How charts lie — and how they make us smarter

Please join us for refreshments from 6pm in the foyer area outside the
lecture theatre.

With facts and truth increasingly under assault, many interest groups have
enlisted charts — graphs, maps, diagrams, etc. — to support all manner of
spin. Because digital images are inherently shareable and can quickly
amplify messages, sifting through the visual information and misinformation
is an important skill for any citizen.

The use of graphs, charts, maps and infographics to explore data and
communicate science to the public has become more and more popular.
However, this rise in popularity has not been accompanied by an increasing
awareness of the rules that should guide the design of these
visualisations. This talk teaches normal citizens principles to become a more critical and
better informed readers of charts.

Alberto Cairo is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the University of
Miami. He’s also the director of the visualisation programme at UM’s Center
for Computational Science. Cairo has been a director of infographics and
multimedia at news publications in Spain (El Mundo, 2000-2005) and Brazil
(Editora Globo, 2010-2012,) and a professor at the University of North
Carolina-Chapel Hill. Besides teaching at UM, he works as a freelancer and
consultant for companies such as Google and Microsoft. He’s the author of
the books The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and
Visualization (2012) and The Truthful Art: Data, Charts, and Maps for
Communication (2016).

Map: ]

Relevant topics for public consultation in statistics education

The Ministry of Education is leading a review of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). The Education committee for NZSA has prepared a statement into topics affecting the review. Please read  Topics for NCEA Review from NZSA Education Committee.

The Committee’s statement says: “This document is offered as input into the Ministry’s review. The education committees views are based on our readings of recent assessments, on concerns heard from teachers, and on our collective experience in statistics education. One of our goals is to provide expert guidance in statistics education, where we can.”

Finally, submissions for a review of the UE literacy standards are due by the 13th of April, so if you want to have your say on these complete a survey.