Finally, writing a blog!

Kia Ora Koutou

I’m finally getting round to starting my blog, something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now.  I’ve had big ideas swimming round in my head of explaining how the New Zealand education system is different from the US, explaining the projects I’m working on with my faculty, reflecting on where I have got to over the last 10 years of teaching etc etc etc.  Instead of procrastinating by writing BIG blog posts in my head, I decided to just share a few of my lessons with you this week to get myself started.

I was lucky enough to attend NCTM in Boston last month – meeting some of the crew from #MTBoS, including @gfletchy@maxmathforum and @TracyZager was awesome and kind of surreal at the same time.  Graham did some gentle nudging for me to “get myself out there more”, but the real inspiration for finally getting round to blogging has to go to Laila Nur and her call to action at ShadowCon.  Here’s where I purposely used humour and an unusual story in two of my lessons this week, and my reflections on them.

I started on our Relationships in Bivariate Data standard with my Year 13 (US Grade 12 I think) Statistics A class this week.  Keep in mind I arrived home from the US Sunday morning, Monday was a public holiday and then Tuesday was back to school.  I was very pleased that I remembered everyone’s name, and all my classes tried distracting me with “how was your holiday Miss?” The Bivariate Data topic started with this quiz:

BVQuizQ1BVQuizQ2 BVQuizQ3

The main point of these questions was to “hook” the students into the topic and generate discussion around both the context and the data.  It worked really well.  The first question generated discussion around seeing a relationship (we hadn’t introduced correlations yet) and causality.  The second question caused the students big issues as firstly they weren’t sure what a “rostrum” is on dolphins, and then they realised that they had no information about the dolphin in the picture! “So you mean Miss, that you just want us to guess?” (with surprise in her voice – they’d obviously forgotten about my quirky sense of humour while I was away).  The third question also generated a good conversation about how different students knew different amounts about dogs, puppies, different weights of dogs etc.  I pretty confident no one knew anything about the relationship between dogs’ heart and body weight.  They all just guessed the body weight from the photo (its a bullmastiff puppy, so quite heavy).

On reflection, I think the quiz was successful in reaching my goals for it and the students were engaged, on topic and animatedly discussing things between themselves.  Not bad for my first lesson back with them still completely jet-lagged.

I used an idea from Michael Shadbolt (Otumoetai College) from his talk I went to last year: Nine weird tips for adding awesomesauce to statistics. Here’s my slides I used with my class:



NOTE: the heart is an animated gif that pulses when projected 🙂  Here’s my story for this slide:

“You need to know Brian’s body weight so you can work out his medication.  Looking at the data, you think that you should be able to make a pretty good prediction of Brian’s body weight if you know how much his heart weighs, so…You prep Brian for surgery…[miming actions as you go] You very carefully take out his beating heart [which is pulsing in your hands as you tell the story] and weigh it…It weighs 48 grams…You put the heart down and pick up your graph…And predict that Brian will in fact weigh about 3.4 kg…You rush to tell the vet how much medication Brian needs but…Unfortunately you had carelessly discarded Brian’s heart in your mad rush and Brian hasn’t pulled through.  He no longer needs any medication.  NOTE – this heart is NOT Brian’s actual heart – it is only here for dramatic effect…”

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Again, this had the reaction that I wanted – “ewww, gross Miss”, “that’s really morbid Dr D”, “how could you Miss” etc.  Michael’s premise is that students remember things that they have a strong emotional connection to.  This wasn’t a humourous situation, but students WILL remember it.  They won’t mix up their axes!  (Although there could be a good argument here that my story-telling abilities were “humourous” – I am a maths teacher after all – not a drama teacher)

Nga mihi nui