Holy crap, I’m exhausted… But happy!

I wish I’d had time to blog about this earlier, but there was NO time. It’s about 10:35 p.m. and I’m watching the Cotton Bowl. I just got home from a basketball game where the ref warned me he was about to give me a technical foul – evidently he didn’t hear me say, “Bite Me” after that (and THANK GOD my son didn’t either).

We started a new semester, so I finally got what I always wanted – MORE AP STATS!
My stats scores always sucked in the past because I taught it in the fall and apparently I don’t review well in the spring. I know the kids understood it in the fall, no doubt. So my school moved stats to spring – it’s now time to “put up or shut up” with my scores. But there’s more time pressure than before, too and my classes are almost full (27 in one class, 28 in the other).

So I wanted to really hook kids the first day and get them excited about stats. Most people I talk to hated statistics in college. But stats is so amazing – I wanted my students to feel that same “wow” factor. So what do you do on the first day to hook them? This is only my 3rd year of teaching, so I had NO idea. These are the biggest classes I’ve ever had AND I’ve got TWO!

My first thought was that I was going to drown in paper work if I did not get them to help me. I decided to put the students into groups and call them “research teams” (RTs). The idea is to teach them to peer edit each other and hopefully, in the process, it would help them become better writers on free response questions.

I already stole the idea from @druinok to give free response problems every week to be due Friday. Then the thought of grading almost 60 FRs a weekend gave me the shivers. So I’ve already set aside one day each week that they will peer edit their free response problems for 15 minutes in their RTs. The goal is so that when I get it on Friday, it should be their best possible work (and hopefully will be very close to correct). This may bomb, but we’ll see.

Anyway, back to the first day. I didn’t want to bore them with syllabus or classroom procedure talk (I know, I know – that’s what you’re supposed to do). But by the end of the class Friday/today (I won’t bore you with the details), they figured out the following ideas:
1) When we’re in a group, we understand better.
2) Our group has a pocket folder in the back of the room – the first person in class needs to get it.
3) We don’t pull anything out of the folder until she tells us to get it (and no peeking).
4) When we finish things as a group, those materials go back in the pocket folder on the other side.
5) Before class is over, someone puts the folder in the class bin back in the back of the room.

That’s not much, but they figured all that out without me listing off the procedures.
I know at least half of these kids already, so I pre-assigned them into their RTs. A lot of my kids are in forensics/debate/drama and will get off topic at the drop of a hat, so I wanted to try and fix that on the front end. I may let them change groups at the end of the 9-weeks, I’m not sure.

I showed the students the original version of “Did You Know/Shift Happens“. I wasn’t sure which version to go with, but this one worked great (thanks @mrhodotnet!). I told the students that most of the stats were from 2006, so we talked about how extrapolation can be wrong sometimes.

To kick off stats, I did the case of Kristen Gilbert. I started by trying to make the kids think it was a case of false imprisonment. I used a lot of the graphs from where the story appeared in “The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS”. I think all teachers have to posess some acting skills, don’t you? I put mine into use that day and tried my best to be as convincing as possible to make the kids think Gilbert was sitting in prison rotting over this horrible crime that she did not commit. By the end, they were arguing with me that there’s NO WAY she was innocent. Without technical vocabulary or getting into the “meat” of the class, they used what they aready knew to figure out I was completely full of crap. It was “wicked awesome” to see them shout with delight when I told them that they were all right – Gilbert was guilty. And when the bell rang, I said, “Welcome to Statistics.” (If you want a copy of my PPT, just let me know – it’s not great, but I’ll share.)

On their way out the door, I had them write their first impressions of the class and any concerns/questions they may have had. Overwhelmingly, the general response was “I’m so excited about this class and I have NEVER said that about math before.”

So it was amazing, but now I’ve realized that although this type of teaching works, it comes with a LOT of planning on my part. And I’m going to have my timing down to the minute if I’m going to teach this way for the AP test and hope that they do well. (If you have any suggestions, hit me up because I’m freaking the BLEEP out over it.)

My formal evaluation is Monday and I don’t do the “dog and pony show” for my administration. I want them to see me for exactly what I am so that if I’m screwing something up or could make an improvement in my daily plan, they can help me. But what my administrator DOESN’T know is that I’m putting him in one of my research teams and he’s going to be a student for the day. Maybe it won’t get me fired. 🙂


6 thoughts on “Holy crap, I’m exhausted… But happy!

  1. Congratulations! This post makes me smile– and wish I had an AP Stats class this year too. I cannot wait to hear how things go, and I am sure your planning is going to result in really great classes.


  2. I am inspired by your story. I am looking for fun activities to do with my class after the AP exam and this seems like such a cool activity! Of course it would be better to do this on the first day, but I have been teaching my students since september (it is a year long course) and I have 3 classes of 35 students. I do a weekly free response question and it is time consuming to grade, so I will be trying your partner grading system next year also.

    I would LOVE a copy of your power point for this activity if you are willing to share.

    Thank you for the inspiration.



  3. Hello,
    I know it's been a couple of years since this post, but if you still have the ppt, I'd love to see it. I will be teaching 3 levels of statistics this year and I'm sure this would work great in all three levels.

    Thank you so much!


  4. Hi,

    I too would love the ppt for the Kristen Gilbert Case. I'm teaching stats at 2 levels and looking for a good intro to the subject. My email is kcampbell@hopkinton.k12.ma.us.

    Thanks so much!


  5. Hi!

    I know you posted about this forever ago but I am interested in doing something along these lines with my students this year. If you still have your power point, I would love if you would share it!

    Thank you so much!


  6. I'd also love to see your powerpoint!


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