2014 AP Stat Reading: Best Practices Presentation

I was fortunate enough to be selected to give a presentation on service-learning in statistics as part of the “Best Practices” evening of the AP Statistics exam reading in Kansas City. In case you are unfamiliar with the event I encourage you to check out “Best Practices” presentations from prior years over at APStatsMonkey (even if you are familiar with the event I still encourage you to check out these great resources and consider how you might implement some of those ideas in your own classroom).

Below you will find the PowerPoint that accompanied my short and sweet 5 minute presentation (click on the image below to access the PowerPoint). Due to time constraints, the meat of the information can be found in the resource documents that I have also included below.

The main question I aim to address  is this: what is the best resource that a teacher can introduce into his/her statistics classroom to help students make meaningful connections between course material and the true value of statistics?

I don’t think it is technology (be that calculators, iPhone apps, online applets, or statistical software packages) which is often discussed as a teaching aid in statistics. I don’t even think that is integrating current articles and published studies into classroom discussion.

Don’t get me wrong, both technology and current events can be powerful pedagogical tools and there certainly is a place for them in the classroom. As a teacher who regularly uses technology and “real-life” articles in my lessons, I would like to submit to you that there is actually something else, something better, that when used well can really cement the value of statistics in the hearts and minds of students. That something: service-learning. As it turns out, I think the best resource that you can introduce into a statistics classroom is to actually get the students out of the classroom and into the local community.

Why I think service-learning is an effective vehicle for communicating the significance and value of statistics to students:

  1. Students are actually doing statistics. 
    • There is something about the physical practice of getting outside the classroom to collect and analyze data that implants an appreciation for the processes of statistics into students.
  2. Students are actually doing statistics in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable (read: human) way.
    • In service-learning there is interaction with actual human beings. The data on the paper now has a face and the analysis becomes a little messier and less clinical. I find this tends to stretch students out of their comfort zone in a good way. It also encourages their focus to shift from individualistic outcomes (such as what grade they might receive) to more altruistic aims of education.
  3. Students are actually doing statistics in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable (read: human) way and they (as well as the community) are experiencing firsthand the fruits of their labor.
    • I require students to complete their project by giving an oral presentation to the service agency. Interpreting confidence intervals/levels, p-values, and significance levels becomes so much more meaningful to students when they have to explain these concepts to a service-agency and build connections for the agency as to what to do with this information practically moving forward.

Check out the presentation and the resource documents for more information. Always feel free to contact me through this site if you have any further questions or want to discuss the topic in more detail.

This is not the first time that I have written about (or presented at a conference) on the topic of service-learning. In addition to the resources that you will find below, feel free to check out some of the prior posts on service learning:

  • Serving through Statistics: the first (and largest) service project that I implemented complete with video summaries and interview with students.
  • CAMT 2012 Presentation: Presentation I gave at the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching based on the first statistics service-learning project mentioned above.
  • Geometry and the Homeless: the first service-learning project I did with my geometry students. An updated version from this last school year should find its way onto the site by mid summer.

serving through statistics image

Resource Documents:

Additional Resources:

Forthcoming:

  • I will be working this summer on an independent study of service-learning in math education for my doctoral coursework. The end goal of the course is to have produce an extensive literature review of the resources currently available on the topic. I plan to share that information here by the end of this summer.
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Geometry and the Homeless

This week I had the pleasure of writing a short note about my Geometry students’ spring project for my school’s newsletter. I thought I would include that below (as well as some pictures that weren’t included in the newsletter). I’ll provide a full write up here upon the completion of the semester.

Regents School of Austin eNewsletter

Regents high school students are partnering with a local ministry to apply their math skills. Please read this inspiring story from Mr. Josh Wilkerson. He is one of our math teachers in the School of Rhetoric.

~ Rod Gilbert, Head of School

1 Peter 4:10 commands us: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I use this foundational truth as the basis to address that customary question of the high school mathematics classroom: When am I ever going to use these math concepts? God instilled a mathematical gift into every human being, enabling humanity to fulfill the purposes of the Great Commandment (to love our neighbors) and the Great Commission (to take the good news to all people). How might we employ our “math-mindedness” in serving others as the Apostle Peter commands?

Mobile Loaves and Fishes (MLF) ministers to the homeless community here in Austin. They recently purchased a tract of land on which they plan to construct an affordable living community for the chronically homeless called Community First. The acreage includes space for trailers, RVs, micro-homes designed by University of Texas architecture students, a large garden with animals, a workshop, chapel, and a medical facility all in the hopes of being a self-sustaining community. The vision of Community First seeks to overcome the homeless mindset and demonstrate that home is more than a physical structure. Home is relationships and far more than just a roof.

MLF graciously allowed our freshman geometry class to participate with them in this project. They have asked our students to utilize their understanding of geometry by designing an awning for RVs. These awnings provide shade and protection to the roof of the RV but it is also creative and energy efficient. Furthermore, these awnings contribute to the mission of MLF in developing relationships and fostering true community.

This past Monday the students visited the MLF Community First project site so they could see the immediate fruit of their labor. The students spent time hearing directly from MLF representatives about their vision and their heart for the homeless, and also about the very real need they have in their design process that the students can meet. There were many questions asked, many measurements taken, and then more questions asked. The MLF representatives were very accommodating and thrilled to see the excitement that the students of Regents had over this opportunity. At the end of the project, these same MLF representatives will travel to Regents to hear the presentation of each team of students and then select a winning design.

As their teacher, I marvel at these students as they mature to understand that learning has NO meaning unless it produces a sustained and substantial influence not only on the way people think, but also on how they act, feel, worship, and serve. I am excited to see what the remainder of this semester holds.

Josh Wilkerson
SOR Mathematics Appreciation Teacher
Appreciating AP Statistics and Geometry
www.GodandMath.com

Additional Pictures Not Included in the Newsletter:

Students hearing a presentation from MLF
Students hearing a presentation from MLF
Discussing layout with Dave Sekel of MLF
Discussing layout with Dave Sekel of MLF
Students analyzing the RV that they will design an awning for
Students analyzing the RV that they will design an awning for
Analyzing EVERY component of the RV
Analyzing EVERY component of the RV

Math and Mission

Any gift we’re given is meant to be of service — to be a blessing to the masses, and to ultimately to meet needs of others and not simply their wants and expectations.

~ Josh Garrels, on why he has given away so much of his music for free

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am a big fan of Josh Garrels. I spent four years in seminary and I don’t think I can teach theology as well as he does – and he does it through music. I was reading a recent interview with him and came across the quote above. “Any gift we are given is meant to be of service.” It is one thing to say this, it is another thing to live it out, and if you do any research on Josh Garrels you’ll find that he truly tries to embody this statement.

It is my hope that we will come to see the community of mathematics educators (and really all educators in general) commit themselves to this mantra: the gift of mathematics is meant to be of service. When I say “gift of mathematics” I’m not referring to just those people who have a natural inclination toward the subject. When I say “gift of mathematics” I simply mean the capacity to do mathematics and to think mathematically and this is gift that God instills into EVERY human being.

Over the past month or so I’ve hear several talks by people who truly understand that the church’s job is not retreat from culture but to engage it, and to engage it in a way that is distinctly Christian. Redemption doesn’t just happen at the individual spiritual level, it happens at a broader cultural level. The church’s job is to go out and get its hands dirty doing the work of service, and we accomplish this through the gifts that God has blessed us with.

One of the talks I heard was by Brian Thomas, an engineering professor at Baylor and faculty sponsor of Engineers with a Mission. His interests include developing simple, low cost, technologically appropriate ways to provide light and electricity to the poor of the majority world. He gave an excellent message on how engineering (which he defined as using math and science to solve problems for people) can be used as a missional gift and is an invaluable skill for doing ministry in the service of God and others. He has graciously allowed me to post the slides of his presentation below (all photos are copyrighted by Brian Thomas).

The second talk I heard was by Steve Vinton of Village Schools International. The purpose of Village Schools International is to “send missionary teachers to small villages in Africa to get involved in the lives of their students, that sharing the Gospel is the natural result of loving them.” While this is not a math-specific ministry, it does view education (of which mathematics is a large part) as a basic human need that the church can aid in meeting. I encourage you to follow the link above to read more about Village Schools International and to keep this ministry in your prayers. Specifically you can be praying for more workers, more open doors, and discernment for their leaders.

My goal as a math teacher is to instill within my students this same appreciation for how the gift of education (and mathematics more specifically) is not just for their own betterment in life, but it should be used in service of others. I’ve posted before on service-learning projects that I’ve implemented and when this semester comes to a close I’ll update you on the projects students completed this year (including my geometry class designing housing for a homeless ministry called Mobile Loaves and Fishes). I’ll also be serving on a panel for service-learning in mathematics at the ACMS conference this June and this summer I will completing an independent study collecting and analyzing the research that is out there on the benefits of incorporating service into the mathematics classroom. So look for updates in the coming months on practical ways to cultivate a desire within students to use their gifts (be it in math or any other subject) to “be a blessing to the masses.”

CAMT 2012 Presentation

Please read my previous post on Serving Through Statistics for a summary of the concept behind this class project. Below you will find the presentation that I gave at CAMT 2012 over this project as well as links to resources and project details.

Click the image above for the complete PowerPoint presentation on “Serving Through Statistics.”

Service-Learning Resources:

Mathematics Resources from the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse

An Introduction to Statistics Syllabus with a Service Component

The journal PRIMUS announces an issue dedicated to service-learning resources

General Project-Based Learning Resources from Edutopia

Serving Through Statistics Project Components:

Overview of Serving Through Statistics on the Navasota ISD Teaching and Learning Blog

My initial proposal to students on the idea of a service-learning project (much borrowed from the Intro to Stat syllabus linked above)

Voting form for subject of project and project managers

Proposal developed by project managers

Initial article on the project in the Navasota paper

Survey on Google Forms: English Version   Spanish Version

Results from Google Forms

Presentation Students Gave to Navasota ISD School Board

Presentation Students Gave to Navasota City Council

Publication of results in the Navasota paper

Student Self-Evaluation Form

Project Manager Evaluation Form

Guidelines for Final Write-Up

Serving through Statistics

Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

~ Matthew 20:26-28

I wanted to do things a little differently with my AP Statistics spring project this year. I found in the past that the cumulative project I assigned in the spring (where students designed an experiment, collected data, and used a statistical inference procedure to draw conclusions) just didn’t hold their interest, and therefore the projects didn’t reflect the students’ best work. You have to keep in mind these are high school seniors getting ready to graduate, their GPA is pretty much set in stone regardless of their grade on this project, and they have already taken (and passed, I hope) the AP Stat exam. For some reason they didn’t want to go the extra mile on this stat project simply because it was an interesting application of statistics. Weird right?

Wrong.

Looking back, as a student I would probably approach the project with the same indifferent attitude. The solution? Make the project something truly meaningful that the students have a vested interest in. Of course this is easier said than done. As I racked my brain thinking of ideas I was blessed to receive this notice from PRIMUS (which I posted here on GodandMath):

The journal  PRIMUS announces a special issue on Service-Learning. Kelly Black, Karl-Dieter Crisman, and Dick Jardine will be guest editing the special issue, inspired by a MAA Contributed Paper Session on this topic at the Joint Meetings in 2011.

Service-Learning connects service to the community with academically-based learning. This is a growing concern on college campuses, sometimes even a mandate, but the mathematical sciences are often seen as a more challenging environment to bring service into the classroom.  In particular, there are only a few resources widely available on this topic specifically geared toward collegiate mathematics.  This PRIMUS special issue aims to provide a significant addition to this literature, with a number of tested ideas in a single volume as a pedagogical resource.

I thought a service-learning project would a be a great way for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to their local community, and all in the context of serving – a Christian maxim that is easy to sell in a public school environment.

After a quick Google search I cam across the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse and their Mathematics resources. This was a valuable resource for me in planning out this project (especially Mark C. Hampton’s Introduction to Statistics syllabus).

I presented the idea to my students and I was amazed to see how excited they became over the project. They quickly determined the focus of their study: evaluating the aid provided to victims of Texas wildfires from last summer. The wildfires had come through our county and affected the lives of many of the students, their family, and their friends. I believe the ownership the students felt in selecting a topic so close to their hearts, as well as the incentive of presenting their results publicly (a commitment was made at the beginning of the project to present the results before the city council and to publish them in the local paper), truly made the project more meaningful. This resulted in motivated and dedicated students, new and interesting learning opportunities, and one amazed teacher.

I knew my students were awesome, but this brought it to a whole new level.

For more details on the organization and implementation of the project I invite you to visit Navasota ISD’s Teaching and Learning Blog for a nice write-up. Below is a video that the district so graciously put together:

I also had the fortune of being a finalist for the HEB Excellence in Education Awards. As part of the awards program, a film crew surprised me in my classroom and did an impromptu interview on this project. Below is their completed video:

If you would like more details, I will be giving a presentation over this project at CAMT (Conference for Advancement in Mathematics Teaching) this summer. Here is a link to the online catalog with the description of “Serving through Statistics.” Below are the mathematical/pedagogical goals of this presentation:

The goal of this presentation is to equip participants with the tools to successfully implement a project that synthesizes the major concepts of AP Statistics: experimental design, data analysis, and statistical inference. Through this project students will integrate their conceptual understanding of statistics with the practical functioning of their local community, ultimately gaining a deeper appreciation for the role statistics plays in the organization and evaluation of service societies.

My hope is to implement more projects like this next year and to begin expanding them to the other subjects I teach.

Geometry, I have you in my sights…with this idea.

PRIMUS and Service-Learning

The following announcement was sent out to members of the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences:

The journal  PRIMUS announces a special issue on Service-Learning. Kelly Black, Karl-Dieter Crisman, and Dick Jardine will be guest editing the special issue, inspired by a MAA Contributed Paper Session on this topic at the Joint Meetings in 2011.

Service-Learning connects service to the community with academically-based learning. This is a growing concern on college campuses, sometimes even a mandate, but the mathematical sciences are often seen as a more challenging environment to bring service into the classroom.  In particular, there are only a few resources widely available on this topic specifically geared toward collegiate mathematics.  This PRIMUS special issue aims to provide a significant addition to this literature, with a number of tested ideas in a single volume as a pedagogical resource.

We are calling for papers describing and evaluating innovative and successful service-learning ideas in the mathematical sciences, at all levels and in all topics.  Papers should explicitly address how the service connects to learning the mathematical content of the course, as well as any non-mathematical outcomes.  These may include modeling or statistics courses, but we especially encourage submissions involving non-major courses or non-`applied’ major courses.

Submissions will be welcomed until March 31, 2012.  Papers for this special issue will normally be around 10 pages long, although there is some flexibility.  Supplementary materials, such as appendices and color illustrations, may be published in the online version.

We also extend a call for referees for this special issue, especially those who have some experience with or significant interest in service-learning.

For more information, please contact:

Special Issue Guest Editors:

Karl-Dieter Crisman,  karl.crisman <at> gordon <dot> edu
Kelly Black,  kjblack <at> gmail <dot> com
Dick Jardine,  rjardine <at> keene <dot> edu

PRIMUS-Problems, Resources, Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies-is a refereed journal published by Taylor and Francis.  See http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/10511970.asp  for more information.

PRIMUS Editor-in -Chief

Jo Ellis-Monaghan, jellis-monaghan <at> smcvt <dot> edu