Month: March 2015

Sweet Probability

Sweeten Statistics with some authentic activities.

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Statistics and Data can be quite a dry topic for students with many calculation quite repetitive and tedious. However you can sweeten the deal by focusing the calculations around data that is more interesting for students. This can be based around student hobbies like sports, music or celebrities. Cricket is particularly statistical and widely followed by Australians but other sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball and many others also have strong statistics.


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I have seen interesting activities on the statistics of Aria winners and here is one on the Melbourne Cup I think works particularly well Melbourne Cup frequency histogram.

Another approach is to use things that are interesting themselves i.e. food. Sweet probability has proved to be a crowd favourite in my class. It has proved engaging to students from years 7 to 10 unanimously. Sweet Probability

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GoogleClassroom

GoogleDrive has developed a new GoogleApp called “Classroom”. This app allows you to add your students into a class group on GoogleDrive. You are able to post Announcements and Assignments onto the Classroom homepage and student work is saved onto a folder in you GoogleDrive.

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Note: Australian DET teachers have a Gmail account using the start of their @det.nsw.edu.au email address with the new ending @education.nsw.gov.au (the same address as students). So your Gmail email will be firstname.lastname#No@education.nsw.gov.au

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Students join by logging in to their DET gmail account, opening “Classroom” from the GoogleApps and entering the class code for your class. For privacy I have blurred my class code.

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The neat thing about using this application is that you can assign and store all student work in the one place. Everything the class does on GoogleClassroom gets saved into the class folder on GoogleDrive where you can mark, comment or check the authorship of the work (check which group member contributed what).

So I would definitely recommend giving GoogleClassroom a try. If you have any questions about how I use GoogleClassroom you can comment below or ask me on Twitter.

Engaging girls in STEM

This year marks the second year of teaching a dedicated class for performance students at an all girls public school. Last year I was their Math teacher and now I am their Science teacher.

The biggest challenge with a class of this type is stereotypes. Literature suggests that stereotypes are a self-fulfilling prophecy in schools as students resign themselves to convenient boxes of ability, gender and race. Telling students that they are a “this type” or “that type” of person gives them permission to reserve effort in other areas. Being told that they are not a maths person because of genetics, natural ability, gender or race means that when STEM gets hard (as we all know it can), there is no point persisting. Its just not in the stars/ their blood/ their brains.

However, research shows that mathematical “ability” is more dependent on effort and mindset than it is an innate gift bestowed upon a person at birth. In my experience, the most valuable thing that you can do for your students is to reinforce a growth mindset.

After a year of growth mindset reinforcement, my performance class out performed the class average of the academic class. So much so that many of them have taken the place of students in the top class. Therefore I implore all teachers and parents to focus on growth mindset messages and stop creating stereotype boxes for students to “fit in”. Being creative and being good at STEM are not incompatible.

If you are interested in growth mindset consider reading articles by Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler.