Statistics Card Sorts

The Details

What is it?

A matching activity with four research questions and the corresponding study design, type of study (observational or experimental), research variable, summary statistics, graphical display, test statistic, p-value, statistical decision, and confidence intervals.

When would I use it?

I designed this particular card sort to be used after covering 1-sample inference to introduce 2-sample inference. But similar card sorts could be used throughout the course and the first half of the card sort (four research questions and the corresponding study design, type of study (observational or experimental), research variable, summary statistics, graphical display) could be used earlier in the semester and revisited.

How long does it take as an activity?

I give the students ~30 minutes to sort the cards in pairs before debriefing with the entire class. If you wanted the activity to be shorter, you could exclude different categories of cards. If you wanted it to run longer, you could have the students work on a corresponding worksheet or debrief of their own.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Don't underestimate the amount of time it takes to cut cards apart! I have these laid out so that the correct answers are obvious in the original, so you can't outsource this work to your students. If you want students to cut them out, you will need to scramble the cards in the original.
  • Print them on regular paper until you are sure you like the version, then print them on card stock to reuse.
  • I follow up with a quick debrief explaining the underlying sampling distributions and necessary conditions, then launch into the memory game and snapping experiment from my 2018 tablemate Jared Derksen to help students see the differentiation between two sample and matched pairs.
  • After all that, we launch into a kahoot about the four types of tests we've seen so far.

The Materials

A huge thank you to the authors of Introduction to Statistical Investigation for allowing me to use these examples. All four research questions are out of their book. If you haven't checked it out, it's an awesome text that approaches statistics starting with the research questions and then tackling all the details needed to answer them.

Physical Card Sorts


This version has the most 'help' in the review cards (labels in displays and summary statistics)


This version removes some of the helpful labels and provides the most challenge.

Best Practices Presentation

AP Best Practices Night - 2018

If you don't like the embedded Google slides, check out the presentation here.

Algebra Card Sorts

If you were interested in the quadratic card sort that I used in my algebra class, you can find that activity here:

There are lots of good algebra card sorts already created for Desmos, if you're interested in that!

I've also done some open-ended card sorts in my algebra class to generate discussion, but I find the students seem the most engaged working on those with a correct answer.

Here's an example of an open-ended card sort I use on Day 1 of my Algebra 2 classes: DOC version

Some Ideas!

To add to the existing card sort...

  • Add Chi-Square tests, ANOVA...
  • Add sampling distributions and conditions.
  • Add additional examples (though there's already a ton of cards, so those would be if you split the sort in half and only did review or only did inference).
  • Write up a worksheet to go with the activity.

Or start over and make a...

  • A vocabulary card sort to be done as concept mapping activity for review.
  • Paired v. two-sample card sort.

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