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Correlation vs. Causation

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Word Document
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Description This is a short activity to teach students the difference between correlation and causation. Students use a graph (autism rates and organic food sales over time) and answer a few questions that prompt them to explain what type of experiment would actually tell them if an increase in organic food consumption contributes to increasing autism rates. Students also must find a news article that improperly attributes causation to a correlation.
Type of Resource Assignment/Activity (Non-Laboratory/Non-Hands on Activity)
Format Word Document - DOC
Katie Wilkinson, San Jose State University
Development Date January 18, 2015
Grade/Age Levels High School upper division (Grades 11-12)
Undergraduate lower division (Grades 13-14)
Undergraduate upper division (Grades 15-16)
Learning Time <=1 hour
Language English
Type of Review Reviewed By LifeSciTRC Board
Review Date April 9, 2015
Funding Source None
Suggested Use

Correlation and causation are two tricky things for students to really understand. I think that this basic activity does a nice job of pushing students to come to their own conclusions about how correlation does not equal causation. It's a straightforward activity that I would love to do in a non-majors class or an introductory biology class.

Lynn Diener, Exact Sciences


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