Literary Critique in Math Class #Teach180

I had this idea for the stats unit for Discrete math. Some formative assessment lead me to believe that the majority of my students had a pretty solid background with 1-variable stats, and therefore spending time rehashing those 1-variable stats wouldn’t be engaging for my students.

So I thought about what was the skill I most wanted for my students in regards to stats, and frankly its not effectively using the S.O.C.S. algorithm for describing a histogram (but I have the privilege of not having a state mandated curriculum and final assessments). I wanted students to be able to read an article about a study or experiment and decide if they trust that study, or if they should believe what they are reading.

I also wanted to help students find a way to take notes that doesn’t involve me making guided notes for them. Letting them take baby steps into their next part of their education (in college or the real world). So I had them watch a video on Sketch Noting Cornell Notes that has really helped me synthesize my readings I do. Based on the students I’ve talked with, this note structure is the perfect combo of just structured enough to be helpful, but open ended enough to be fun.

Enter the book How to Lie With Statistics, a rather outdated text that I was told to read in grad school to help me wrap my head around stats. I remember it was the first time that the premises of bias in math was introduced to my world and it knocked me off my axis. It had never entered my thought process that my pure subject, math, could contain bias.  I also remember wanting to strangle the author for his problematic language among other sins. I wanted my students to have this exact moment. The lightbulb of how stats can be used to lie or hid some truth, and to see someone’s bias spelled out clearly. An intro for looking for bias in writing as it were.

Based on today’s Desmos Debrief I think the students got exactly what I was hoping for. They did a great job finding the good statistical themes while tearing apart the writing and the arguments. Students were LIVID at the author’s views on artists (he lumped artists into a statement about homeless drunkards), frustrated with his view on mental health, and ashamed that a text that was so widely used a few decades ago perpetuated negative sentiments towards minorities and non-wealthy people.

Up Next:

  • Reading the first section of Weapons of Math Destruction 
    • The goal is to pair this reading with How to Lie with Statistics as they both tackle some of the same questions about how to eliminate bias in research, but in two vastly different approaches.
  • Eugenia Cheng’s videos and Washington Post columns
    • TEDx London talk on using Abstract Math to help explain privilege
    • Everyday Math: The Problem with Percentages
    • Everyday Math: Averages Aren’t Always What They Seem

Let me know if there’s anything else you think the kiddos would get a kick out of.


Some highlights of the last question in our debrief where we noted the historical context of who was able to study statistics and become a statistician in the 1950s (Cis-White-Males):

“What harm is caused by having a dominate sub-section of a population be the only voice in a field of study? Why?”

It causes biases in how data is collection and how it is viewed, also in the trust in people’s responses/the alteration of data to show things to aid a subsection and not the general public.

This is a major problem because the data will not be dispersed evenly; this excludes large groups of people who do not fall under this particular category. The data will be unfair and biased.


Semester 2 Day 1 #Teach180: AngLegs and Data Collection

It was the first day of the second semester and geometry did some AngLegs explorations to discover the Triangle Inequality and the Side-Angle relationships. The kids loved playing with AngLegs. My favorite quote was

“Oh my god these are so much fun! Way better than Legos!”

Then we did 1-variable data collection today in Discrete to start our stats unit.

And we do single leg balances a little differently at an arts school

Desmos Transformation Golf #Teach180

So for the past 2 years of teaching geometry the lesson I most look forward to, and was most disappointed by each time, was Desmos Transformation Golf.

Hear me when I say the failure to launch was my own doing. The past two years the lesson leading up to it had been rushed, students hadn’t had enough hands on time with transformations, and I didn’t get them any physical tools to use while Desmosing.

Bad Jenny.

So this year I swore would be the year for Transformation Golf. We’d been using the IM curriculum’s unit 1 and the kids were feeling good with transformations. I made up a notes sheet for their notebook that had:

  • A screen shot of the Desmos screen
  • A place to write down their transformations
  • I asked each slide for students to find 2 transformation that work and to annotate on the graph with appropriate vectors, lies of reflections, centers of rotation and angle measures.

I restricted them to slides 1-2 and asked them to “play around and see if they can find 3 uniquely individual ways to complete the first challenge. We talked about the transformation tools and noticed how the green points are moveable and we talked through how to set up rotations the way we wanted. We then did a Show and Tell of all groups’ favorite way to complete challenge 1.

I asked Students to write and chat in their groups about slide 3 (which they had a screen shot of in their notes) and to make hypotheses about what transformations would work. Once they discussed as a group I opened up slide 3 and students tested their guesses.

The first Settle An Argument slide got real heated and kids were using compass constructions to justify their thinking. In my small class we gathered round one student to demonstrated their solution method to convince others.

We only got to slide 4 in 45 minutes, but the conversations were AMAZING, the group discussion was so wonderful. Time. Well. Spent.

Tomorrow we’re aiming to get through to challenge 8.

Graph Theory Card Sort #Teach180

I made up a quick card sort that prompted some cool table discussions and tried a new trick for whole group engagement:

Each player got a graph, turn all the vocab cards (the things to be matched) face down, group turns one car over at a time and discusses who’s graph it goes to. Repeat.

It was WAY more successful than I anticipated. A good move to file away for later for sure.

Day Number…good question: Hamilton Circuits and Desmos Reflections

Today in Discrete we did some brute force calculations of the total number of Hamilton Circuits in a complete graph. We learned fractals grow very quickly, and motivated the need for an algorithm.

In geometry we spent some more time doing compass constructions for reflecting polygons over a line, practiced the constructions in Desmos before “unlocking” the transformation tools. So we made snowflakes to practice using the tool.

Day 40: Trick Or Treat #Teach180

Discrete worked on their graphs for Eulerizations of the neighborhood near school today. It took longer than expected to set up our weighted graphs so I guess it worked out that Halloween got moved to tomorrow due to severe weather. Well finish up part 1 of the trick-or-treat problem tomorrow.

Also, it was like 78 in my classroom today so this group huddled near the fan. And yes. That kid is painted green, he’s Elphaba from Wicked. ❤️

Day 36: Conjecture Edits in Geometry #Teach180

I didn’t get any photos, but we used Desmos to test our conjectures from the Puzzling it Out activity.

The coolest moment was one group had written, for their linear pair conjecture:

If we have two adjacent angles on a line, then they have a sum of 180 degrees

And another group had:

If there is a line with a ray off the line, the two angles formed have a sum of 180 degrees.

And we talked about the differences of the impact of our word choice on the implications of the conjecture. After looking at a “break the conjecture” round where a student drew 3 adjacent angles who make a line we decided to throw out the first statement and keep the second.