Project Overview
Student Learning Objectives
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The Poisson Distribution


Time: Approximately 50 minutes

Materials: Handouts, pencil/pen, computer with Internet access, calculator or mathematics/statistical software

Prerequisites: Students should be familiar with random variables and probability distributions. It would be beneficial to have worked with the binomial distribution.

Implementation: This RWLO can be used either as a classroom exercise or as a homework activity. It can also be extended into a project with additional data collection.


  • Assign each student to a computer. Computers can be shared if resources are limited.
  • Provide a review of random variables and probability distributions.
  • Provide an overview of a Poisson process.
  • Explain/discuss a related example.
  • Explain/discuss Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
  • Discuss how in many practical situations, the rate of a process is unknown and must be estimated based on observed empirical data. For this assignment, data concerning website usage will be gathered at
  • Observe the Recent Changes to establish a benchmark for the usage rate per minute.
  • Build the Poisson model based on this data.
  • Complete the assignment.