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Monday, September 30, 2013

Made For Math Bonus *Standard Deviation using Table*

I was in #Statschat last Thursday and we were discussing the usage of technology to simplify Statistics calculations and when it is appropriate to still make the students go through the motions of learning methods which might not be the best ways to find solutions given the complexity of some of the calculations.

The conversation started over discussing whether or not students still needed to learn the Empirical Rule, or how to use Normal Distribution tables or find standard deviation with the traditional equation.

I show my students the equation, we talk about what each of the variables mean, ahem, represent and then I tell them I love them too much to make them memorize and use that equation.

What I have my students do is use a table which seems to simplify the process.

  I write in "n = " under "n is the number of numbers in the data set"

We complete the table just to find the sum of "deviation squared" and then use that number in the equation below.

The first one we do together, then I throw another one at them to work on and then compare with their partners.

We do some homework on these (and other measures of central tendency) but only a few of them (and most students get a good portion of it done before leaving class and then the next day I review the two methods before sharing the method for finding standard deviation (and most of the other measures of central tendency) on the Nspire (which I had planned to add here, but don't seem to have with me at the moment)

Made For Math Monday *Visual Fraction plates*

I taught 5th & 6th grades for a number of years.  During that time I found that fractions, decimals and other associated concepts were particularly difficult for students because they were frequently not very comfortable seeing what the concepts would mean.

I got creative one weekend and made a cheap and easy to manipulate way of visualizing these concepts.  I have used them in the classroom and with my own children, so I know they have worked for me.

One day on twitter a question was asked about how one could help students with these concepts and I recalled my plates.  I knew I had them still (in my cabinet at work, though I'm sure there are a couple in my garage too) and I wanted to share them and how to make them.  (here ya go, Mr_Stadel)

First I take 2 plastic plates  (foam ones don't hold up and paper ones don't slide as well and they also don't hold up.  The plates should be different colors, and I chose the 6 inch plates.

 Next you will cut a radius into each of the plates.  Be careful not to go too far when cutting (with younger students this is definitely best done ahead of time)

Here I have made my cuts and slipped a piece of paper between the plates to allow you to see how they were cut.

slide the plates together at the radii.

Once together the plates slide easily allowing you to quickly create fractional representations, percentages, etc.  if you prefer, sliding the plates easily allows you to change the front color as well.

One the back I would mark particular angles on my own manipulative.  This allowed me to quickly generate fractions (etc) that I wanted students to be able to identify by visual inspection

I would have students keep their plates in their desks and when I had time left in a lesson I would have them take them out and show me 25% red, or approximate 3/4ths blue or show me what 90% red would look like.

Friday, September 20, 2013


I'm not yet able to go SBG, but I'm on my way.  I told students they could reassess standards for 2 weeks after the original assessment, if they have the original questions signed and they complete a remediation assignment.   1 week after quiz and NO ONE has asked for the reassessment assignment.

I'm a bit bothered.   I WANT my students practicing and reassessing, but I want them ready once they reassess ( unlike when they first took the assessment).

My options are not great.

1. Nag the student.  (I don't respond we'll to nagging, personally)
2. Call home and tell on the student. ( goodbye relationship )
3.  Ummm... You'd think Harry Wong would have covered this

I don't want to extend my deadline.  I think I might have to bend on this one, but I believe when I say something it should be as true as I can make it.  ( especially with so many students having little stability at home)
I want students to reassess.  I want to only deal with reassessments for a limited amount of time.  I want students reassessing to have worked on the material ahead of time.  I want the parents aware that reassessing is taking place and that their student is struggling with a concept.  I want my students LEARNING.  What a concept.

I'm thinking for this first quiz I am going to conference with students.  It will cost me class time, something I jealously hate losing.  I will make a student conference form, to document the discussion.  I want the students to understand my goals in offering reassessment and requiring something from them to be able to reassess.

I'm not sure how my student conferences will go.  I will start on Tuesday (as I will be on a field trip this Monday).  I figure if I keep myself to between 3-5 minutes that I should get most of them done by Thursday. Given that I cannot speak to all of the students before Thursday, I will need to extend the deadline for this quiz to reassess.  I am thinking that adding an additional week is appropriate.  This also has the added benefit of opening the window until just before my grades are due for progress reports.

I started on this post and accidentally published it before I had a chance to go back through it and review my thoughts.  I have another thought regarding doing a similar conference with both the parent(s) and the student.  I'm not sure that, upon reflection, it is the direction I wish to take this idea at this time.

Under the Influence

First off, the title of this blog refers to a play that was performed in front of our students today.  I've been to dozens of assemblies over the years and generally speaking I tolerate the disruption to my classes.  I politely stand with my students and police their behavior and generally am bored out of my mind.

This assembly was different.  Over the course of 2+ hours I spoke to 1 student about their phone.  I didn't once have to speak to a student about their behavior.  This is a first.

The play is based upon the book (*The Pact*) in which 3 boys (Marcus, Cameron and Shawn) make a pact to keep each other focused on their way to becoming doctors.  Before you decide that the subject matter is pretty dull, understand that these are inner-city boys who are dealing with many different pressures as well as their own goals.

The characters are easily identifiable among my own students.  As a teacher we see many students whose potential is squandered because they lack focus.  The characters interact with each other and their environments in realistic ways which my students found refreshing.  There was no preaching, just lots of dialogue sharing the characters' perspectives and feelings.

I don't want this blog piece to be filled with spoilers, but there are all couple things I will share.  A acronym is given early in the assembly for D.R.E.A.M. that I wish they had elaborated upon in the play.  During the second act, Shawn gives a speech about how "doing what (he) wanted" ended up leading him astray.  Also, Marcus' father has a heart to heart with two of the boys which as a parent myself left me content that the boys' families weren't just a source of conflict.

I'm not sure if the troupe performs just locally or nationally. I can say that if your school serves a similar demographic to mine (inner-city students primarily) then this play would certainly give the students something to think about and perhaps help some of them to reevaluate their lives and goals.  From what I've heard in many of the schools where this play is performed, students seek out and read the book from which the play was written.  For many of our students that might just be the first book they've read which wasn't assigned.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stats vocabulary

last week at #statschat we discussed the HUGE amount of vocabulary we throw at Stats students as they begin the class.  In my book's first 2 chapters alone there are 75+ words my students are supposed to understand before we even really start discussing Statistics.  We all agreed that this was a problem

Being my first time teaching Stats, I looked through the assessment materials I was required asked to use to assess students in the class.  I had little difficulty with many of the questions, except for those specifically related to levels of measurement.  (I did ok on them, just wasn't sure of my choices).

This I decided was due to the vocabulary related to these questions.

So I brainstormed and came up with 2 foldables and an activity to use with them.

The first foldable is Qualitative vs Quantitative

It is the smaller one on the left.  the top two flaps open and the bottom is an envelope.  It holds the other foldable and is useful in the sort.

The second foldable, also visible in the picture above compares Nominal/Ordinal/Interval and Ratio levels of measurement. Inside students are to define each of the levels of measurement and give an example.

I also had the students do a sort of different kinds of data.  They first had to sort them by qualitative and quantitative.  Next they had to try and identify what level of measurement each was.  Students completed this part with a partner and then we shared out as a class.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

My stumbling through Interactive Student Notebooking

I'm Interactive Student Notebooking (ISN), and I don't yet feel I've hit a stride on doing it. I can't seem to get the right side and left sides both done in a single day (of course, I am still trying to instill class procedures and learn the students, so that likely is part of my problem).

I did box and whisker plots on Tuesday with my students, we didn't meet on Wednesday (it was a district wide thing that won't reoccur again until spring), so on Thursday I opened with "on the left side, under the example we did at the top of the page, draw a line.  Beneath that line write any questions you have about box and whisker plots.  If you aren't sure about what questions you have, look back at the right side.  If you have no questions, write I have no questions."

Two of my classes did this well, with the most common questions being:

  • What does the box represent?
  • How do you make a box and whisker plot?
I revoiced the questions posed and as a class we discussed the responses.  I did none of the explaining.

This third class, however, overwhelmingly wrote "I have no questions"

Below this they were to once again put a line and the instructions for the next part were: 
  • Make believe you are writing a recipe:  Number and list out the steps necessary to make a box plot out of a set of data.
Students were also instructed to NOT simply make up a list of data and make the box and whisker.

I got plenty of hands!  Primarily from students who had written they had no questions.  I simply pointed out their previous note of having no questions needed to be re-evaluated.  By asking them to list their questions I was able to walk around the room and quickly see who was confused and what issues they were having.  

I want the ISN's to be a place where I could practice formative assessment and where the students could practice learning to speak math.  I love that I managed to get, in one day, a chance to see both of these goals in action.  

Now, how can I replicate that next week....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Death and Statistics

I asked for the statistics class this year.  I wasn't sure I would get it, but I figured what the heck and also thought that it would be fun.

So far so good...

I was looking at a news site this evening and came across a neat article in which there is a widget which allows you to choose a year (there are about a dozen given) and it will predict how you would have died had you lived in that year. Death in History

After looking through and seeing what would come up for each of the years, I got to thinking that this would be a great lesson to tie in cross curriculurally with the Social Studies department.  (of course, doing so would require holding out on using this idea until an appropriate point in the other class arose)

It seems to me that the choices are most likely generated using a weighted system related in some way to the actual death rates for each of the given years.  What I'd like to do is have each of my statistics students use the widget 10-20 times for a particular year, pool their data (they work in groups) and then using that data see if they could predict what the actual rates were relating to reasons for mortality for each year.

I don't know if I'll wait for a History teacher for the tie in, and I can already see the students just wanting to google for the causes of death for the given year, but perhaps if they try to end run around me like that I can challenge them to figure out how the widget is accomplishing what it is doing.

Regardless I anticipate some interesting discussion surrounding the topic.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

School Has started....

I began classes on Tuesday, which annoyingly was a half-day.  While I understand that this allows the students to ease their way back into classes, it also barely gives time for attendance, scheduling issues and then something to set the tone.

I said I was going to do math on day 1, and I'm happy yo say that on day 1 I did math!  I did the 4-square activity that I had stated I would do.  In most of the classes, it worked well given the time constraint and kids were very much still talking about it the next day.

Wednesday was even less productive in 2 of my classes because of class meetings (in my 2nd and 4th hours I had less than 20% of the students actually in class).

Today I handed out notebooks and introduced the idea of an interactive notebook.  we taped a rules page on the back of the front cover and for those students who had already gotten their syllabii signed, that went there too.  We made the first page our "unit table of contents" and made 2 foldables for the 1st topic.

 Tomorrow I am planning on doing the Marshmallow Challenge. I figure it should be a good team building activity as I know our students generally find working in groups to be a challenge (some just coast, while others take over).