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Activity: Internet explorer users have lower IQs

AOs | Indicators | Outcomes | Snapshot | Learning experiences

Cross curricular | Extension ideas | Assessment | Spotlight


This activity investigates the truth of a claim that IQs of people who use Internet Explorer are less than the IQs of users of other browsers. This claim in the media was eventually exposed as a hoax, but is used in this activity to prompt an investigation into whether the claim might be true in our school.

The following links provide details of the claim and its exposure as a hoax.

Anatomy of a hoax

By Thomas Lumley

Last week, many newspaper websites (though apparently not any Kiwi ones) reported a study purporting to show users of Internet Explorer had lower IQs than users of other browsers, with Internet Explorer version 6 users scoring 20 points lower than Firefox users, and more than 40 points lower than users of Opera. The results were supposed to be based on a survey of 100,000 people recruited through ads on websites. This claim turns out not to be the case.

( Stats chat: Anatomy of a hoax)

Achievement objective

  • S8-3: Evaluate a wide range of statistically based reports, including surveys and polls, experiments, and observational studies:
    • A. critiquing causal-relationship claims
    • B. interpreting margins of error.


  • A. Critiquing causal-relationship claims:
    • Identifies the type of study, that is, survey, poll, experiment, or observational study.
    • Draws on understandings of statistical investigations and how the different types of studies are conducted, uses critical questions to evaluate the study, makes a judgment about the claim and justifies it.
  • B. Interpreting margins of error.

Specific learning outcomes

  • Students will be able to:
    • critically evaluate a claim
    • design an investigation to investigate a claim
    • make an inference from an investigation.

Diagnostic snapshot(s)

  • Students discuss the claim reported by Thomas Lumley in groups:
    • Do they think the claim is true?
    • How might the data have been collected to make the hoax?
    • How was the claim refuted?
    • Do they think the claim might be true in their school?
    • How might students investigate whether the claim is true in their school?

Planned learning experiences

Part 1

  • Students work in pairs and are each given the data card set (IE IQ score v non IE IQ score). This provides the fictitious results of an investigation of this claim amongst Year 13 Students at St Jeanette’s School.
  • Calculate the mean score IQ scores for the IE (Internet Explorer) group and the non IE group.
  • Discuss whether these two means confirm or refute the claim.

Part 2

  • Students work as a class to design an investigation of the claim amongst the Year 13 students of their school.
  • Identify 20 IE users and 20 non IE users.
  • All members of this sample are asked to use this website to provide an IQ rating.
  • Place the data into a spreadsheet with one column recording the browser (IE/non IE) and the second column the IQ rating for each student.
  • Use appropriate software (e.g. Fathom, iNZight, GenStat) to generate a bootstrap confidence interval for the population mean for each group (IE users and non-IE users).
  • Discuss whether these confidence intervals confirm or refute the claim.

Possible adaptations to the activity

  • Newspapers, blogs and magazines often provide reports on similar claims. Claims that fit the context of the school and students can be used instead of the claim about browser use and IQ.
  • One good source of links to such claims is Stats chat.

Cross curricular links

  • Discussion with teachers of other subjects can provide opportunities to link current reports to studies in other subjects.

Extension/enrichment ideas

Planned assessment

This teaching and learning activity could lead towards assessment in the following achievement standard:

Spotlight on


  • Planning for effective learning.
  • Creating an inclusive learning environment.
  • Facilitating shared learning.
  • Making connections to prior learning and experience.

Key competencies

  • Thinking:
    • Students hypothesise, investigate, analyse and evaluate.
    • Students design investigations, explore and use patterns and relationships in data and they predict and envision outcomes.
    • Students ask questions, want to know ‘why’, make connections and discern if answers are reasonable.
    • Students deal with uncertainty and variation, they seek patterns and generalisations.
  • Relating to others:
    • Students work in groups, they debate solutions, negotiate meaning and communicate thinking.
    • Students work collaboratively and cooperatively, taking on a range of roles. They think, share ideas in pairs, and share ideas in groups of four.


  • Students will be encouraged to value:
    • innovation, inquiry, and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively.

Planning for content and language learning

Last updated September 10, 2018