Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back from Break

Last week was the first week back from break and we only saw each class three times because of having Monday off.  Thank goodness it was a short week.  It was fairly easy week, but draining.  Even though I kept a similar sleep schedule over break, by 7PM I was exhausted.

In my statistics class with the juniors and seniors I did two longer application problems. One (found here) on misleading graphs and statements.  I was a bit nervous with the political tone of the assignment, but no one really noticed it.  Only one student picked up on the fact that the ACS might be trying to mislead with the graph in order to help out Giuliani.  On one hand, it was good because there were no political battles in class, on the other hand, it meant that the students still aren't totally thinking.

My biggest issue with my statistics class is that the students are so used to being led through problems and worksheets that anything requiring actual thought is really difficult.  One girl even commented, "You really come up with good questions.  I have to think.  I don't like it.  Why do you do that to us?"  My whole goal is for them to think, especially when it comes to presentation of graphs and data and arguments.  I've been pretty disappointed in this unit and haven't figured out how to remedy it.    They still can't tell the different between a causal and a correlational argument unless the title says "X causes Y."  They only see the articles at face value.  I gave them a series of 5 articles on soda and teen violence where some articles said soda caused it, others explained a correlation, and the last put down the articles that claimed causation.  On the whole, the class didn't see the differences between the articles and thought it was all totally dumb because adults were trying to say that soda made them violent.  Even the attempt at a discussion after went no where.  The one or two kids that "got it" didn't really say anything and the others just stayed with their own initial perception rather than evaluating the article.

I think the biggest issue with my lessons on them identifying inappropriate causation in articles is that many of the students do not read well.  They only had to read two of the 5 articles and each article was a page or two, but it was still tough for them.  Others probably never did the reading.  I want to do an interdisciplinary math class, but how can I get around, differentiate, scaffold, or support the low levels of reading?    The students want to do well. They want to learn.  They like the class and they try.  But without the ability to read, interpret, and analyze newspaper articles they are at a big deficit.  I want to say "I can't correct it all" and "It's stats class, I don't have time to teach reading too," but I can't have it both ways.  I can't demand reading skills and ask them to apply knowledge they don't have.  I need to make time for it.  

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