The first step you take away from the textbook approach to a mathematics topic is often uncomfortable. Are you intimidated by the idea of using real data in your classroom? Do you ever wonder how to teach everything that is required in middle school mathematics? You are not alone! Researcher Robert Reys tells us: Regardless of the textbook, the teachers were most likely to omit data analysis and probability (Cavanaugh and Diegmueller, 2005).
Let's take a minute to think about the content knowledge that teachers should know and understand to teach about data and statistics. The NCTM Data Analysis and Probability standard for grades 6-8 includes topics such as formulating questions; designing studies and collecting data for one or two populations and characteristics; making graphical representations such as histograms, box plots, and scatter plots; finding and using measures of center and spread; using samples to make conjectures and raise additional questions; and drawing conclusions about populations based on samples and approximate lines of fit (NCTM, 2000, p. 248). The resources below can help you prepare and get necessary background to teach standards-based statistics concepts in the middle school classroom.
Learning Math: Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability
An extensive tutorial is found in this college-level online mathematics course designed to teach data analysis, statistics, and probability to elementary and middle school teachers. The site focuses on statistics as a problem-solving process, and it engages teachers through video lessons, activities, and online demonstrations. Topics addressed include minimizing measurement biases, organizing data in a stem-and-leaf plot, measuring variation, and fitting lines to data. Estimation, five-number summaries, comparative studies, and binomial probabilities are also covered. The course consists of 10 sessions, each rich with video lessons, activities, and homework problems. The final session presents case studies that teachers use to examine students' perspectives on statistical problem-solving processes. Solutions are included for the activities and homework problems.
Principles for Principals: Workshop 3. Math/Science Skills—What's Important?
Are you looking for ideas to make data analysis real? This 11-minute video offers an inspiring look at how a teacher, with help from a local college, engages his 5/6 classroom in an in-depth study to explore the safety of well water in their community. The students become immersed in the project as they take samples from 63 wells to test for trace metals contamination. They use spreadsheets to analyze the data and share the surprising results with their community.
Teachers will find this Australian site helpful when trying to understand statistical concepts that range from stem plots, dot plots, and mean, median, and mode to hypothesis testing. The site, designed to provide curriculum support for teachers of introductory statistics, can be helpful for the middle school teachers who need to refresh or enhance a statistics background. Good explanations of statistical concepts, classroom activities on topics such as finding patterns in data, and real data sets for classroom use are featured.