Sunday, February 20, 2011

TV Survey

Sampling is a technique that is used in statistics to gather information about a lot of people or things without testing each one.   For instance, scientists pull a small container of water from the ocean to test to see if the beach is safe for swimming.   Many people follow this same procedure with their backyard pools, testing a small container to check pH levels. 

There are companies that gather this kind of information from a small number of people and make predictions about how a larger group will think or act.   For example, the Nielsen ratings gather information on which TV shows a small sample of Americans watch.   The Nielsen company then publishes which shows Americans watch the most or watch the least based on this small sample.   These are called the Nielsen ratings and they determine how much money advertisers pay for TV commercials.   The more people who watch the show, the more an advertiser will have to pay for a commercial during that show.   The Nielsen Company very carefully selects the people who participate in this sample so that they are representative of the country as a whole.   Unfortunately the end result is that sometimes your favorite TV show will not get a high Nielsen rating, and it may be cancelled by the TV station. 

TV Survey is an open-ended problem that was designed to introduce students to this real-life application of sampling.   Because TV is a part of students' daily life, this scenario is accessible to all students.   And, because students often exhibit a keen sense of "fairness," they are sometimes disconcerted by the notion that a small group of people get to decide what all of us get to watch on TV. 

TV Survey was also designed to address different Bloom levels so that students have to use higher-order thinking skills to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information about the sampling method. 

Download the TV Survey open-ended assessment.

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