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MERLOT II

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Peer Review


Binomial Distribution

by Larry Green
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 3.8 stars
Effectiveness: 3.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Aug 07, 2004 by Statistics Editorial Board
Overview: This JAVA applet is designed to give students practice in calculating basic
probabilities using the binomial distribution. The applet gives students short
problem descriptions that require a binomial probability to solve. The
user is then prompted to follow a step by step process to find the probability.
Users must answer a step correctly before the applet will allow them to move on
to the next step.

The page also gives further exercises that allow the user to think about
binomial distributions more deeply and gives a link to a more detailed
information about the binomial distribution.
Learning Goals: 1. Help students read and correctly interpret binomial probability problems.
2. Help students correctly complete binomial probability calculations.
Target Student Population: Students in an introductory statistics course.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic ideas of probability, the binomial distribution, and notation for
combinations.
Type of Material: Online interactive JAVA Applet
Recommended Uses: Drill and practice for students who need help with reading binomial probability
problems correctly or the mechanics of binomial probability calculations. It
can also serve as a method for emphasis of clear thinking about problem solving.
Technical Requirements: JAVA enabled web browser

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 3.8 stars
Strengths: The applet is very well thought out with built-in feedback provided for common
errors. For instance if the user tries to find the probability of exactly three
rather than three or less the applet will give them a corrective hint. The
applet also has a hint button if the user is unsure how to begin. This helps
students see their errors and correct them. A variety of real
contexts are used for the problems.


Concerns: A major concern with this applet is that it does not encourage conceptual
understanding of the binomial distribution. The applet encourages the student
to effectively follow step by step methods for calculating binomial
probabilities; however, it does not attempt to provide students with any
understanding of the importance of the binomial distribution. The applet has
follow up questions that could be a place for the author to encourage the
students to think more deeply but instead the questions deal only with more
mundane probability rules. This applet did not make use of graphics to help make
the connection between the calculations and the binomial distribution. The
notation used in this applet may not exactly match what is used in most
introductory texts.


Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3.5 stars
Strengths: This applet will patiently reinforce the correct procedure for identifying the
important parameters in binomial probability problems. It can be used to give
students a variety of self-study drill problems to help them learn procedural
solving of the problems.
Concerns: Most students should be able to use this item on their own but there are some
pitfalls teachers should be aware of. The applet may freeze in some situations
and may lead students to become frustrated. The applet does not have a feedback
mechanism that would allow students to provide evidence they have used it.
Therefore it is best used as a self study tool rather than an assigned part of
the course that must be completed and turned in.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Consistent presentation of problems. Easy to work through.
Concerns: The use of this applet may be difficult due to some technical issues. As
mentioned above it does freeze occasionally. The applet does not make clear the
number of decimal places required for answers which may lead to some student
confusion. A similar problem is that students may be asked to sum a series of
probabilities they have calculated and the correct answer may be rounded so that
in essence the correct answer is not the sum of the component parts. Also, the
reviewers were unable to use the applet on a Macintosh browser (I.E. or Safari).




Other Issues and Comments: Only works with Windows browsers.