, Volume 44, Issue 7, pp 899–911 | Cite as

A conceptual pathway to confidence intervals

Original Article


Finding ways for the majority of students to better understand conventional normal theory-based statistical inference seems to be an intractable problem area for researchers. In this paper we propose a conceptual pathway for developing confidence interval ideas for the one-sample situation only from an intuitive sense to bootstrapping for students from about age 14 to first-year university. We make the case that conceptual development should start early; that probability and statistical instruction should change so that both orientate students towards interconnected stochastic conceptions; and that the use of visual imagery has the potential to stimulate students towards such a perspective. We analyse our conceptual pathway based on a theoretical framework for a stochastic conception of statistical inference based on imagery and some research evidence. Our analysis suggests that the pathway has the potential for students to become conversant with the concepts underpinning inference, to view statistics probabilistically and to integrate concepts into a coherent comprehension of inference.


Stochastic conception Probability–statistics instruction Secondary-university students Dynamic visual imagery Bootstrap 



This research is partly funded by a grant from the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maxine Pfannkuch
    • 1
  • Chris J. Wild
    • 1
  • Ross Parsonage
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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