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Average? What does it mean?

February 10, 2021 | Melissa McCallihan

In November students in the sixth grade composed an essay on the homelessness in Hudson County. Students read many statistics and percentages, and stumbled upon a variety of graphs regarding the extent of homelessness in our area. What I noticed is that they really didn’t understand what these numbers were telling them. 

This essay was the first in several essays they will write this year that will prepare them for their final essay, the social justice essay. The social justice essay is one part of an integrated project. In this essay they will need to include data to support their conclusions. I discovered through the homelessness essay that they  needed help understanding how data is gathered, plotted and summarized. They needed to understand mean and median. They needed to understand deviations and how those deviations are calculated. 

Using Mathspace they have delved deeply into understanding averaging numbers and how outliers and the manipulation of the data can change what average is. We spoke about how this could relate to them as a test taker. Adding an outlier to a set of test scores can take a student’s average from being an above average student to a student whose scores are below average. This brought up ethical questions about how data is shared and viewed. Students had a new appreciation for the term “average.”

Through a special math project, students practiced the entire data collection and graphing process using their own statistical question. From their data they composed three graphs: a dot plot, a histogram, and a box and whiskers plot.  

Coming up students will research and incorporate relevant facts and data into their social justice essay and project which will be shared on Friday, April 30. More information on the sharing evening will come in April. 

Melissa McCallihan

Teacher, Grade 6; Science Grades 6-8

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 29 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.”

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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