Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Exit Slips

For several years, I've wanted to do exit slips, but I just never could get it organized to my liking. I understand the benefit of them and can see them being an awesome thing in my classroom.

Enter in some discussions with my bestie, @approx_normal... she does her warmups on index cards and then hands them back for the students do to the exit question on the back and put it in a box by the door. But, like @approx_normal, I also suck at closures and often run out of time....

So today, while she and I are discussing some ideas for the spring semester, I get a brainstorm.... What if I made a poster of generic exit-questions and posted it in my classroom? For example...

1. Summarize the important points of today's lesson

2. Write 3 things you learned, 2 things you are fuzzy on, and 1 question you still have.

3. Etc

Then, at the end of the hour, I could just direct student's attention to the poster and tell them to write their response to question number ___ and put their index card in the box as they leave the room.

I need more exit ticket prompts though.... Ideas? :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Simulations based on Game Shows

The PCMI Probability problems had a "Game of the Day", oftentimes related to the King of Game Shows - The Price is Right. I don't know about you, but as a kid, whenever I was home sick, I always loved watching TPIR. (Honestly, though, I miss Bob Barker....)

Anyway, one of the "Game of the Day" activities in the PCMI packet is the "Spelling Bee" game, in which contestants select cards and hope to spell the word "CAR". I plan to show a clip of the game from TPIR website and ask my students to figure out the proability of winning. Of course, the probability isn't the easiest one to calculate, especially right after a 2 week break, so it will be a natural lead-in to simulations. I found this worksheet/writeup online and plan to use it as a guideline. In their partners, the kids will run through the simulation several times, then combine their data with another pair of students to calculate the simulated chance of winning.

P.S. Like many people, my favorite TPIR game was Plinko. I really want this game board from Oriental Trading...Disc Drop Game

Real or Fake?

Yesterday I went through the PCMI probability problems from 2007 and found some really neat ideas to use over the next few weeks. I plan to use one of the activities to start us off on day 1 next week.

The basic idea is for groups to create two datasets of a coin flip. First, they will fake a dataset of 240 coin flips, then they will create a real dataset by actually flipping the coin. They will write these two datasets on index cards. Using their two datasets, they will discuss with a partner and come up with a way to determine if a new dataset is real or fake. I will then have them exchange their cards with another pair of students and use their "test" to determine which card has the real data and which card has the fake data. If time allows, there are some additional coin flip datasets in the PCMI packet that I will put up for discussion.

At some point after that - not sure if I'll do it the next day or a few weeks later - the PCMI packet went on to use an inference test to determine if a dataset was real or fake. By splitting the coinflips into sets of 2 (or 3 or whatever), you could keep track of how many HH/HT/TH/TT combinations there were and compare them to the expected 1:3:3:1 ratio. This would provide an interesting introduction to inference testing and p-values, as well as tying in to binomial expansion and pascal's triangle.

This activity should be a good way to get them back into the school frame of mind, thinking about the start of inference techniques, and drawing conclusions from data. If I'm really good this week, I'll get it together in a google form.... We'll see how that goes :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Problem Sets and Probability

Winter break is halfway over - where, oh where, did it go?? :) Last week, I spent time cleaning house, reading novels, and in general, just enjoying the off time. However, all good things must eventually come to an end, so this week, I vowed to work at least one hour per day on school stuff. (wishful thinking?)

Probability is one of my weakest areas as a stats teacher. Prior to going on break, we had covered basic probability, disjoint events, independent events, venn diagrams, tables, trees, etc. Next week, when we go back, we'll do simulations and probability distributions. In the past, I've not been pleased with how this unit turned out, so I'm hoping to do it better this year. A few weeks ago I ran across this problem set from the 2007 PCMI and today I've been working through it. So far, I have some ideas I think will work, especially for simulations. I really like the Game of the Day activities and plan to use several of them to spark conversation in my class.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Semester Reflections

As I sit and watch my students working diligently on their semester
final, I am so grateful that winter break is upon us. It has been a
whorlwind of a semester, filled with new challenges, new triumphs, new
frustrations, and a huge lack of time to sit and write about it.

One of my biggest challenges at the start of the year was how to
manage 130 kids in AP Stat. If you've never looked at the AP
Curriculum, it's very writing intensive and conceptual - not your
run-of-the-mill right/wrong math class. It has worked out fairly
well, and while I am not able to grade assessments as quickly as I
would like, I have amazing students and they have really shined this
year. Part of how I've managed is by two things - active learning and
standards based grading. Over the past few years, I have transitioned
more and more away from lecturing and this year is even more so.
Since AP Stat is my only major prep, I have really put a lot of time
into developing quality lessons, making connections, and tying things
together this year. In class, the *kids* are the ones working their
tails off. They sit in partners, so they have someone to turn to when
they are stuck. They work with their partners on a daily basis while
discussing and working problems. The problems that in the past I
might have assigned as "homework" get worked in class instead. They
do not sit and watch me work problems and do examples - THEY tackle
the problems, work through it with their partner, then we discuss it
as a class. Overall, this has led to high engagement, which has shown
up in their assssments.

The second thing that I tackled this year was using Standards Based
Grading in my AP class. I had started this journey last year with
Algebra 2, and at the time, had no idea how it would work in AP.
While it's still a learning process, overall I do really like having
the more detailed information about student's understanding of each
concept. There are still some kinks to be worked out, like the crowd
of people in my room this week for reassessments, but the pros far
outweigh the cons. The kids have embraced SBG with open arms and over
time have seen the benefit of having to remediate and reassess, of
having detailed grade reporting, and learning from their mistakes. I
have heard the statement, "I wish Mrs/Mr X did SBG too!", many, many
times over this semester. There definitely have been challenges to
SBG though... writing assessments that really get to the heart of the
objective, writing reassessments that cover the same concept without
being identical to the original, the time it takes just to grade that
volume of papers, etc. But overall, I'm happy with how this semester
has turned out.

As I reflect back over the past year and a half, I realize how
different I am now as compared to when I started this journey. My
philosphy on what really matters, what grades should mean, how to
structure my class, so many things. I was one of those teacher that
would have sworn "if you don't grade it, they won't do it" and now I
see how wrong I was on a daily basis. My kids work their butts off
every day and it's NOT about how many grades I take - it's about being
engaged with the material and tapping into their intrinsic motivation
to learn. It's not always been a smooth path, but this was a journey
well worth the time and energy it took to get where I am today.