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'What's Your Mean?' printed from http://nrich.maths.org/
Why do this problem?
gives an opportunity to practise numerical integration
in the context of probability distributions. It will really allow
students to get into the meaning of probability density functions
in terms of areas and probabilities. Instead of simply requiring an
explicit calculation, students will need to engage with decisions
concerning limits and integration.
The first stage of the problem is to realize that a numerical
integration is needed to calculate the mean. Once the class has
realised that this is the case, they will need to start to perform
the integrations. This will require various choices as there are
many ways in which this can be done. To facilitate this, you might
like to print off copies of the graph for students to draw on.
How do we relate a probability density function to a
How do the two graphs relate to each other?
What is the graphical interpretation of an integral?
How important will the effect of the second graph be?
What happens for values larger than $20$? Are these values
How might you try to estimate the variance for these distributions
First try to show that numerically the area under the red
curve is 1. You can then use the decomposition into rectangles and
trapezia to try to work out the mean.