Meaningful Math: News Media for Increasing Adult Statistical Literacy

Monday, July 1, 2019 to Friday, June 30, 2023
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Broadcast Media
Adults | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association

Familiarity with statistical and data literacy is important in many areas of modern life, but there is little research on how adults continue to build mathematical literacy beyond formal schooling. Mass media science news stories contain much data, assuming that adults will understand the content.This 4-year project will first map the landscape of adult statistical literacy in the US, particularly as it relates to news consumption. The second phase will build on results from the first phase through a longitudinal study. In the third phase, the project will develop a range of experiments to manipulate mathematical explainers embedded in STEM news stories and test techniques with adult audiences, with the goal of identifying the attributes and affordances that best improve confidence and competence in the underlying math principles and their meaning to news stories. in addition to the research, project components include 12 broadcast video and social media pieces each year that will form the basis for testing with audiences, a one-day symposium for professional science journalists, and a written best practice guide that summarizes key findings and implications for practitioners. 

Critical research questions are: How do mathematical competence and confidence differ among different segments of the adult population? How can STEM journalists improve adult mathematical competence and confidence through their reporting techniques? Phase 1 of the research will be a landscape review of mathematical content in the news including a baseline study of adult statistical literacy. Phase 2 will be a longitudinal study with news audiences recruited to participate in a panel study. Phase 3 will be iterative testing of the digital content based on the findings from Phases 1 and 2 and will use both focus groups and online testing. External evaluation will be conducted by TERC including an evaluation of the symposium for professional journalists.

The broader impacts of this project are twofold: the science videos created will be broadcast and made available free to a national audience including those in rural areas; and the training of science journalists has the potential for multiple, long term impact by increasing their ability to communicate statistics meaningfully to their readers/viewers.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which supports innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of learning settings.

Funding Program: 
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Patti ParsonPatti ParsonPrincipal Investigator
Jena Barchas-LichtensteinJena Barchas-LichtensteinCo-Principal Investigator

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