Sunday, February 5, 2012


Today, one of my students posted to Facebook, "We're mixing food & statistics together, I'm excited."  I'm going to ignore the fact that she posted during class, without permission, and just be happy.  Pi Crust wrote about how happy she was after her class asked to take pictures of some really awesome student work and had several students change it to be their profile photo.   I totally understand her sentiment.  The student that posted is one that has had an up and down relationship with math and school and grades for the two years I've known her.  Being excited about school and showing it and posting it to Facebook is awesome.  Even though her excitement may have been more about food than the statistics, at least stats gets mentioned. 

As for the lesson that prompted the excitement, I wasn't terribly into it.  I had been feeling sick all week and  wasn't mentally all there.  So I found a lesson from a book of hands on math lessons for middle schoolers.   I didn't adapt it at all, I just made copies of the student worksheet.  I felt like a terrible teacher doing that.  I find lessons online all the time for use in my class, but always need to modify and adjust for my students.  Not adapting it felt like I wasn't thinking about MY kids, like I was just one of the many terrible teachers along the way who churn out copy after copy of worksheet after worksheet.  Maybe it was the cold talking. 

Anyways, even though the lesson was for younger grades, most of my students had forgotten the skills.  They needed to estimate how many M&Ms of each color were in a package, then calculate percent of total, make a bar graph, and a pie chart.  After opening the bag, they repeated the process, but this time for the actual number of each color.    

The number of students who wanted me to open the bag before the estimations was shocking.  Some were pretty upset that I wouldn't do it.  Others wanted me to tell them the total and then they would do the guessing.  It wasn't that they wanted to be closest to correct, they just couldn't work under uncertainty.  On the pie chart, they forgot the process, but once I showed them a sample section, they were completely capable.  I remember trying to teach the lesson to my 7th graders a few years ago and wanting to bang my head on the wall.  Figuring out how many degrees each section should be, then measuring it out was a several day set of lessons for 7th graders.  But for high schoolers, it was over in a matter of minutes.  This was one of the first times I really saw them "getting" skills that they didn't remember from earlier grades.  It was still a very procedural understanding, but I'll take what I can get. 

Next the lesson heads into whether a small vs large samples for estimating a population and accuracy.  Here's to hoping M&Ms can capture their attention for more than one day.