Lexical Ambiguities in the Vocabulary of Statistics

Douglas Whitaker


Lexical ambiguities exist when two different meanings are ascribed to the same word. Such lexical ambiguities can be particularly problematic for learning material with technical words that have everyday meanings that are not the same as the technical meaning. This study reports on lexical ambiguities in six statistical words germane to statistics classes—arbitrary, model, random, range, uniform, and variable—based on data collected from an Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics course taught in the southeastern United States. Data was collected at the beginning and end of an academic year. Of the six words studied, four—model, random, uniform, and variable –were found to have substantial lexical ambiguities.

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