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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.