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The New Normal

Activity Description


Students will explore distributions of various census data sets to determine whether it can be reasonably assumed that those data follow a normal distribution, based on students’ analysis of either a histogram or a normal probability plot for each data set. They will then discuss their findings with a partner who analyzed the other type of graph for each data set.

Suggested Grade Level


Approximate Time Required

45-60 minutes

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to determine if a distribution is normal based on histograms and on normal probability plots.
  • Students will be able to identify which data sets can and cannot be modeled accurately using a normal distribution.

Materials Required

  • The student version of this activity, 14 pages

A graphing calculator, graphing software (e.g., Microsoft Excel), or other graphing technology is optional.

Teacher Notes

Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy

Students will analyze histograms and normal probability plots of various data distributions and evaluate whether a normal distribution can accurately be used as a model for those data.


High School Math


  • Histograms
  • Normal models
  • Normal probability plots

Skills Taught

  • Estimating values based on histograms and normal probability plots
  • Identifying normality in a data set
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