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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Stats Project

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This is a summative assessment for the Algebra 1 Statistics unit. (I know that one-variable statistics is not algebra...insert grumbling about overloaded curriculum here.) The students are expected to be able to solve problems involving measures of central tendency, construct/interpret a box and whisker plot, construct/interpret a frequency table, frequency histogram and cumulative frequency histogram, and construct/interpret a circle graph. While learning the unit they practice constructing the graphs by hand. For the project, I teach them how to construct them with a computer and calculator and expect them to do so.

The whole evolution takes 4-5 days of class time. On the first day, we just collect data. Every student answers 24 questions. The questions are divided into 8 sections (A-H), consisting of 1 each of qualitative data ("What is your favorite color?"), integer quantities ("How many first cousins do you have?"), and non-integer quantities ("How long is your shoe in centimeters?"). I collect their work and, overnight, separate the 10 sections. The next day, each group of students gets everyone's responses to a section of three questions.

I give them explicit instructions about what graphs to create for each data set. We discuss why some graphs are more appropriate for different kinds of data, but if I let them pick, they would try to make a circle graph (or a "bar graph", which is not even an option) for everything. Two to three days are spent with the computers, calculators, poster board, etc, creating graphs, and writing up responses to analysis prompts. On the final day, each group presents their findings to the class.

Sometimes it seems they are all about making their graphs as ugly as possible:

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There are some things I would change if I could. If I had a month for this unit, instead of 10 instruction days, I would want them to decide what data to collect, and give them a long period of time to do so. I would explore numerous ways to display data in informative and enlightening ways, and let them try whatever type of infographic they desired. As it is, I have 10 days to get them conversant with four specific types of graphs. So I make that process as engaging as I can.

Go here for Data Collection Sheets, Writing Prompts, Technology Instructions, and Scoring Rubric.