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Hypothesis testing is a prevalent method of inference used to test a claim about a population parameter based on sample data, and it is a central concept in many introductory statistics courses. At the same time, the use of hypothesis testing to interpret experimental data has raised concerns due to common misunderstandings by both scientists and students. With statistics education reform on the rise, as well as an increasing number of students enrolling in introductory statistics courses each year, there is a need for research to investigate students’ understanding of hypothesis testing. In this study we used APOS Theory to investigate twelve introductory statistics students’ reasoning about one-sample population hypothesis testing while working two real-world problems. Data were analyzed and compared against a preliminary genetic decomposition, which is a conjecture for how an individual might construct an understanding of a concept. This report presents examples of Actions, Processes, and Objects in the context of one-sample hypothesis testing as exhibited through students’ reasoning. Our results suggest that the concepts involved in hypothesis testing are related through the construction of higher-order, coordinated Processes operating on Objects. As a result of our data analysis, we propose refinements to our genetic decomposition and offer suggestions for instruction of one-sample population hypothesis testing. We conclude with appendices containing a comprehensive revised genetic decomposition along with a set of guided questions that are designed to help students make the constructions called for by the genetic decomposition.

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Journal of Mathematical Behavior