A little over a week ago, I posted about A New Math Lesson that I had taught in my class. The students enjoyed working on something besides the boring lessons that they normally work on. They enjoyed being able to work on their own and to look for answers instead of just being told what is correct. However, teachers. . . . learning has changed. Here are the answers that I built.

Now you may be sitting there upset that you can’t see the images all too well. I’m not showing you this information so that you know what our temperatures in Emporia, Kansas, were in January. I’m sure you could care less. What I’m showing you is that all the information are screen shots that I took. It took me 10 minutes to find all the information that I was requiring. Here is a closer look of the high temperature information.

When you look at this information you can see the Mean, Median, Mode, Range. . . .well, all the information that teachers would want. Why am I showing you this? Well, because my students were able to find this information the same way. We as teachers need to realize that teaching is completely different from when we were full-time students in middle school.

Students know how to find information and solve problems online. Some teachers would say that this is cheating. I don’t think it is. This is using their resources. No adult would sit and write out all the information in order to find the median, nor add all the numbers up in data and divide to find the mean. Computers do this for us every single day. So why make the students do problems that way. If they learn how to use their tools correctly, good for them!

So what is our job as teachers? We now need to teach them HOW to read this information. It is now my job to put the information that they found up and we discuss how to read graphs and charts. What does all of this information show us? Why do we have box-and-whisker plots? What are those plots showing us? How is this important to what we do?

Last week we did state reading assessment at our school. All of the scores can be placed into charts for students to read. We as teachers pull the data apart to help us know how to improve for the next year. So why can’t students look at that information? Now I’m not saying show them names, no, we can’t do that. However, couldn’t we pull students into what is going on? It’s real life problems. Yet, when I think about it. . . .is that against policy?

Once again, I just want to point out that students are getting answers in different ways in 2011. Students have websites that will build all of the information that when we were students had to do by hand. We should not keep students from using them, but encourage them to. Our jobs as mathematics teachers now is to teach them how to read this information and why it is important to show the information in these different ways.

The websites that I used in this lesson are: www.alcula.com for making a box-and-whisker plot, and www.chartgo.com for building graphs.

We need to teach kids (and most adults) not only how to read the data to but also to critically analyse the data; however, unless one knows how to derive the mean, mode SD, etc the data is essentially meaningless.

As for why it is useful to make students do these sorts of problems the long way . . . it makes much more use of higher thinking skills when one has to manipulate data manually than it does to do a three word search on google and plug and chug the results. And isn’t developing and exercising one’s higher thinking skills the goal of a good education?

The teachers should respect the creativity of a student. Surely, Physics and Mathematics are most fearful subjects of all. But we can enjoy these by knowing that how to use them.