Partnering with Statistics

After a move to a smaller, more rural school I was delighted that I was able to continue to teach Statistics. This year I was fortunate enough to teach College Statistics at my school in conjunction with a small local 4-year university. Previously I taught AP Statistics, so the rigor of this level of statistics was definitely welcome. I had one full year to teach College Statistics. Typically, this course is a 1 semester course in most colleges. So I had some time to make sure my students really understood the material. And I did not have an AP exam for students to prepare for (one student chose to take the AP Stats Test). As long as students earned a C, they would earn a college credit from the cooperating university. I hemmed and hawed over a final examination, I asked the cooperating professor for some guidance – or a sample final exam. I was ECSTATIC to find that he doesn’t give his students a final exam, but a final project, and he encouraged me to consider that as well. My head was spinning! I was given FREEDOM from a FINAL EXAM in a COLLEGE MATHEMATICS course!? I couldn’t believe it!  I was sent some example reports, guidelines, expectations, rubrics to try to implement a project like this in my own classroom. It seemed very overwhelming, but I knew if given a chance to do a project instead of a final in a COLLEGE MATH class, I needed to jump on it!

In our school we have the Lake of the Woods Prevention Coalition. This group exists to “unite together to inspire the youth and the Lake of the Woods Community to prevent underage drinking, tobacco and other drug use.” Each year they collect data via student surveys and publish their results to the community and more in an effort to provide preventative services and education to our students. The women who run this coalition, Tammie Doebler and Susan Paulson, do some amazing work in our community. They have an abundant network of coalitions across the state of Minnesota. Tammie and Susan approached me at the beginning of the school year to ask for a partnership with my College Statistics students. Of course I very gladly said yes!  At this point, I didn’t realize what this entailed or the REWARD in this project at this point. 

Here is a reflection on what we did in class this year and how I want to tweak it in the future.

What we did:

  • Students learned Statistics for Quarters 1-3, and most of Quarter 4 – HEAVY on confidence intervals and hypothesis tests.
  • We used CPM for curriculum – this was enjoyable for the students and got them used to problem solving and working in teams as well as using mixed space practice to keep reviewing previous topics.
  • Students were quizzed & tested every chapter for Quarters 1-3. Quarter 4 consisted of a couple of short quizzes, and their final project.
  • Students distributed a survey to the student body, sent it to a survey evaluator to collect the data.
  • In groups of 2-3, students chose a topic – a hypothesis they wanted to investigate further:
    • Do you think your parents trust you?
    • Who uses marijuana more? Males or Females?
    • What is used more – alcohol or marijuana?
    • Seatbelt use
    • Distracted driving
    • Bullying
  • Data was given to students in RAW form – students organized their data in excel files and spreadsheets to make it
  • We had conference calls with our survey evaluator who gave us tips on our data, and on our hypotheses and told us about his job, his qualifications, projects, etc.
  • Students turned in rough drafts before their senior trip and had the last week to tweak their reports.
  • They had another conference call with our survey evaluator and shared their data and results.
  • These reports are being used by the prevention coalition to summarize trends in our community and are being shared across the state.  

How students felt:

  • They loved that they didn’t have to take a final test.
  • They loved that they got to choose a topic that was interesting to them.
  • They loved that it incorporated all of the topics they learned.
  • They loved the relevance – that it was going to be used in their community in positive ways.
  • They didn’t just do it for a grade!

Things I want to change for next year:

  • Introduce the project better in the fall.
    • Have a timeline/checklist for each month – what should be accomplished with each
  • Talk more about biases and perceptions in our community.
  • Research public information – before coming up with the questions for the survey, think about how we will use it – comparing it to another community, our state statistics or national statistics.

If you are interested in a project similar to this, I encourage you to find a partner in your community or school. I will be sharing some resources for teachers in the future, so check back for those!

 

Here are the reports for this year:

Are Teens Trusted By Their Parents?

Statistical Analysis of Bullying

Lake of the Woods School Illegal Substance Use

Statistical Dangers of Distracted Driving

Seatbelt usage between our student sample and national averages

 

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‘Tis the Season

One thing of the things I love most about living in Minnesota is our four seasons. Once I start getting weary of the weather, I can be sure that in a few short months, change will come. I really do love winter in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to the hot summer days on the boat or at the beach.

Have you ever thought of the seasons of the school year?

  • Beginning of the year
  • Homecoming
  • The Holidays
  • New quarters, trimesters, semesters
  • Snow week festivities
  • Testing season
  • Prom
  • End of the school year
  • Graduation
  • Summer workshops

Of course there is much more than this, but my educational career thus far is an ongoing periodic function.

Spring finally arrived after testing season and I was fortunate to attend the MCTM conference in Duluth for the first time in over ten years. And what a beautiful spring day it was in Duluth! It was motivating to start the workshop off with Paul Gorski’s energy and passion as he presented inequities in education. Gorski challenged us to be a threat to the existence of inequity, and to recognize and address our biases. I know I have the privilege of not having to worry about inequities, but that doesn’t mean that I can be complicit to the biases found in our school system.

After the keynote, I made it a point to attend sessions that would align with the goals of my school – providing meaningful intervention, fostering growth mindset, and increasing student-centeredness in our classes. The sessions I participated in did not disappoint.

  • I attended Mike Floersch‘s session on Growth Mindset before attending with Carissa Simonet’s session on intervention strategies. These sessions had my head spinning for the entire weekend with creative ideas for a new intervention program in my rural two section school.
  • Chris Robinson and Nicole Bridge asked us to reflect on the hierarchy of our classrooms. Who benefits from our classroom practices? If I truly want to have a student-centered classroom, how are these activities helping me reach (or not reach) that goal.
  • Megan Schmidt had a packed session on Islamic Geometry that provoked endless curiosities on the magic and wonder of compass and straightedge constructions. And I wonder if our geometry courses ever allow time for students to really explore and create these creations.
  • The taboo title “Why Math is Unnecessary” piqued my interest from the start. Brooke Williams encouraged us to think about how we use math daily and how this should drive our teaching.  She also introduced me to an inspiring Conrad Wolfram Ted Talk on persuading math teachers to use computers (meaningfully) in their lessons.
  • And finally, I attended Scott Adamson’s session “Students Code with Desmos to Inspire Mathematical Thinking.” He reiterated Conrad Wolfram and Brooke William’s message: we are teaching students archaic computing skills – this needs to change. Our students should be learning how to
    • Pose the right questions,
    • Convert real world situations to mathematical representations or models,
    • Compute using available technology, and
    • Analyze, interpret, connect back to the real world situation.

The MCTM workshop ignited the passion and motivation to be innovative in my teaching. I am excited for the next season in my career – excited to begin working to plan a new school year with a new student-centered curriculum (CPM). I cannot wait to jump in and harness my creative juices and make positive changes in my classroom and my school in the upcoming year.

Perhaps it’s in my Minnesota blood to look forward to the change in seasons. It’s easy (for me) to get lost in how the future might look and planning for a new school year. But I also need to be reminded that the current school year is not over. I challenge you to be present in your last weeks of school, take time to enjoy your students, and continue to inspire until that very last day.

2017-18 Goals

This year I will be teaching at a brand new school.

I have always had extreme BTS anxiety, but I'm betting I will be a wreck this whole month – anxiety of the unknown. My anxiety levels will sky-rocket, my husband will probably threaten to leave my passive-aggressive self. Even though I know everything will be amazing once school starts.

Chad and I left our previous positions for Northern Minnesota – 5+ hours from all of our close friends. While we will miss our friends and family, we love our new home so much so far! We both got jobs at the same small E-12 school (where our kids will also be going). I'm going from a school with a team of 8 math teachers to a school with a team of 2 math teachers 7-12. I've taught at a small school before and I survived. I never thought I'd go back to a small school with limited means of collaboration, but my network has GROWN – and thanks to modern technology, I won't feel that lack of collaboration again. AND Megan has promised to PLC with me on AP Stats/CIS Stats….

But this writing is supposed to be about my goals…

  1. Balance – Work more efficiently. (Not sure where to start with that…. Lists…? Any tips??)
  2. Reflection - I am teaching an 8th grade class this year – I haven't taught MS math for a very long time. I will need to reflect on things that are working (AND NOT) in the classroom.
  3. Research – There is a lot of work to be done in my new position. I want my work to be backed by research and best practices and most importantly focused on students.
  4. Involvement - I need to get involved in my new community as well as professional communities (while remaining balanced…)
  5. Make new friends – OMG I just realized I need to make new friends here not just my kiddos…. my shyness is stifling. Wish me luck.

My end of the year project

I’ve put a lot of work into my classroom this year. Credit should go to my awesome collaborating partners in my departments, as well as TMC last summer, and #mtbos.

I’m very proud of what’s been accomplished. I hope my students are too.

Check out my end of the year summary

Embracing the Chaos

I need to share some of the chaos that’s been going on in class.

Race-Car Ya-Ya Project. Thanks to Frank Noschese for the help on this one! The kids enjoyed the project. The results were fantastic. Many other ideas for experiments came up with the pullback cars.

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Parental Z-Scores – Kids got a kick out of this. Not sure that their parents did so much. They had to send a note much like the one shown below via text or photo or paper to their parents. Fun responses from parents 🙂

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The Game of Pig – We had a pretty intense couple of days last week playing and coming up with strategies for the Game of Pig.

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Fair & Not Fair Games – We’ve been analyzing games of chance. Today, we specifically looked at pulltabs. (A topic I have a lot of experience with. Good talk came out of this – tipping, entertainment value, booster clubs, fundraising, raffles.) My dear friend Megan gave us some problems today like the one below.

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Paper-Wad Basketball – And of course, what kid doesn’t like to throw paper across the room? And what Stats Teacher doesn’t collect data about it? We did a little of this Paper-Wad BBall Activity and a little of that One-and-One Situation.

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It’s total chaos. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everything is NOT awesome

Friday I used an activity in my class that I had great success with in a previous class. The LEGO Correlation Activity. We play a version of The Price is Right. Students are in groups, each group gets to take a bid at a Lego Set. The goal of this activity is for the students to use the correlation between number of pieces and price to predict the price for the Lego set. This worked ok on a class-by-class basis.

It started out great 2nd & 3rd hours. A couple of students grabbed calculators and were calculating their guesses based on the number of pieces. It was magical to me.

But 4th and 5th hour were just NOT interested. I feel like they did not get anything of substance out of this lesson. I was very frustrated and ended up making both classes sit QUIET for the last 5+ minutes of class. It was necessary for my mental health. I didn’t even get a chance to go over this TOTES AWESOME Desmos Graph

Perhaps the activity dragged on too long… I think some groups felt like they couldn’t “catch up” to the other teams, so they gave up… Maybe they checked out because it was Pep-Fest day…

I gave them a 2 question closer/homework:

1. What method did your group use to bid on the Lego Set

2. What do you think the scatterplot of # of pieces vs. price will look like.

I’m totally up for suggestions on this…