Dr. Andrew Davis, Priory mathematics teacher, recently traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah. for an Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics workshop. The workshop, designed by the AP College Board, included training for activities to use in high school courses, how to prepare students for the AP exam, and the set-up of the exam itself. He said, “I learned many ways to make statistics incredibly relevant, exciting and interesting for the kids.”
Dr. Davis shared a few great ideas to implement fun activities in the classroom. He outlined one that covers probability: “I’ll set up a game with a dozen eggs, eight of which are hard boiled and four of which are raw. One student chooses and egg to smash against his head, and then a second student does the same. The first person to get two raw eggs loses. The statistical question is: do you want to go first or second in this game? What do you think?” Dr. Davis refused to disclose the answer, saving it for his own students or maybe even challenging the students in Dr. Kalhorn’s class to a statistical duel at a Monday STUCO assembly.
Because high school students love candy, Dr. Davis now has ideas on how to use sweet treats in his lessons. He’ll ask his students, “How many starbursts can you hold in your hand? What property should that be associated with? Can a taller person or shorter person hold more?” They’ll measure hand sizes to determine the association between body size and how much candy someone can hold. Another activity involves a lockbox filled with candy. What’s the probability that you’d be able to guess the 3-digit combination, and how many times do you expect to try it before you get in. This easily relates to real-world problems such as cyber security. For instance, to secure your email account, how long does your password need to be? How many times would a hacker have to hit your email password to crack it?
He also learned about specifically preparing students for the AP exam. He has insight into what kinds of questions come up, and knows how to prepare students to answer with exactly what the reader needs to see. He said, “It was super helpful just to go through and see exactly what they are looking for. Especially in questions like, ‘Does your data provide convincing evidence that your hypothesis is right or wrong?’” He gave an example about a woman who identified that her husband had a disease because he smelled differently to her. Scientists wanted to see if she could really detect disease by smell, and tested her with 12 men. She identified all 12 men correctly, those who had the disease and those who didn’t. The question becomes, is that statistically correct? Is 12 out of 12 enough evidence to say she’s doing better than guessing? Given the data you see, is that really enough evidence to change your behavior? Another example is: if you sample the salaries of 30 people in a community, is that enough people to confidently quote the average salary of people in that community?
Dr. Davis also learned how to write questions very similar to AP style. His tests will be very similar to AP tests, and he’ll grade the tests similarly. The students will be very familiar with AP Statistics style and format before sitting for the test. “My goal to get all our kids 3s, 4s, and 5s on the AP Stats Test,” said Dr. Davis.
He continued, “Statistics is good, evidence-based decision-making. You use it every day. We make decisions every day and on some level we use evidence to make those decisions. We’re just trying to teach students how to do that better.” He’ll be implementing many of these ideas in the second two terms of his AP Stats class, a senior-level math class.