We just started a new term, and I wanted to start off with lots of moving around the classroom and working collaboratively. For my year 9s and 10s other teachers start off telling the students what the different types of statistics we use, what they look like, perhaps give them a dataset. If you know my style, you know I don't like to give away information for free! The students have to work for it!
The activity we did in class today was not a new one. It's extremely easy to set up - all you need is some Post-Its.
To start off, we drew an "X" on the Post-It and then gave each quadrant a category - Eye colour, Sex, Number of pets, Did you eat breakfast today?
Each student does this for their own Post-It.
From the different categories, we then came up with "I wonder..." questions: "I wonder what is the most common eye colour in our class", "I wonder if more people ate breakfast than didn't", "I wonder what the boy/girl split is in our class", "I wonder how many pets the class has in total".
For each "I wonder..." question, the students made a guess.
Next we draw up a graph on the board, title it, put on the axis labels and then the students come up and place their own Post-It in the corresponding column.
From here we can start to answer our "I wonder..." questions, and build on the answers we find. For example, we found it was a pretty much a 50/50 split for boys to girls in our class. Someone wanted to know if that is normal, someone else wanted to know if that is what it's like in the whole school and the world. Then I asked the question: is there somewhere you can think of where the split would be very much skewed in favour of one sex? We got two answers from the crowd: Boys' High and Girls' High, and in China where they practiced female infanticide for centuries (a few people listen in their social studies class!)
With one question answered and many more popping up, we moved onto the next question and the next, each time thinking about new questions and writing conclusions about the questions and our initial guesses.
Of course, it didn't go fantastically with both classes. My year 9s are much more active, they generally like (or at least tolerate) each other, and they feel like they can do the work. My year 10s are the opposite - they are sedentary, they dislike each other and the class setting can get quite toxic, and they have been led to believe they suck at math and can't do the work. Over the year I've tried to change these ideas they have, but it feels like it's been a wasted effort. But hey, I've done my best!
At least for one class, this was a great intro to stats for the students and they enjoy getting out of their seats and moving about. Following this, we're going to try to answer the rest of the questions that popped up using our school statistics - for example, which day of the year is the most common and why?
Give it a try in your class if you haven't. It's easy, it's fun, and it brings out really great questions to ponder and discover.