Trying to find math inside everything else

Posts tagged ‘lesson’

Estimation180 and Absolute Value Graphs

So as I was getting ready to teach absolute value graphs a little while ago, I came across this post from Kate Nowak about a lesson she did with it. I liked the idea but…I didn’t like the idea of having to “get my butt into overdrive” to collect data from staff and students about such a thing. I wanted a lesson for the next day, so I didn’t really have time for that.Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 6.52.24 PM

But then I thought, well, my students have been doing Estimation180 all year long. Maybe there’s a way I can use that? I even tweeted Kate about it, but was left to my own devices. (Though I suppose this is finally the write up I promised.)


I thought about what was different between what we’ve done with Estimation180 and Kate’s task, and then it hit me – Kate’s lesson is all about one guessing event, but we have loads of different ones. At that point we have done ~30 estimations. What if we could do some comparisons?


My premise was this – Mr. Stadel, who runs the Estimation180 site, wants to implement a ranking system where all the estimations are listed as “easy” “medium” “hard” etc. But how can he tell when one is hard or not? He knows all the answers, so he can’t used himself to judge. So I told Mr. Stadel that we have lots of data from our class and we could probably use it to come up with a system.

[Aside – this was the 3rd or 4th day of the new semester, and to complete the task I asked students to use the estimation sheets from the previous semester. They revolted, because they claimed I had told them they could throw those out! Which I vowed I didn’t…though, to be honest, it’s possible I did, since I hadn’t thought of this lesson yet. Luckily enough students had not thrown them out so that it could still work.]

So I reviewed what the estimations we did were and I told each group that they have to pick one estimation that they wanted to evaluate. Then they had to collect data from their classmates (and from the binders of other classes, through me) – the estimate each person made and what their error was. Once they have collected enough data, they have to make an Error vs Estimate graph and see what happens. Then I had them make some analysis on whether this counted as a difficult task or not. I didn’t have them compare graphs at the time, but I totally should have.

I think it worked pretty well and many of the students understood why it should be a V-shaped graph. They were at first surprised about where the vertex was, but then it made sense, especially comparing many different error graphs.

Estimation Difficulty Rating (Word format)



The Monty Hall Problem

(Step one in going through a bunch of posts I’ve wanted to make.)

After reading this post on the Monty Hall problem last year, I decided to do a lesson on it. And it worked out okay. But, as Riley Lark did in that post, I did it at the end of the probability unit. So this year, I decided to go for it and do it first. And I must say it worked out quite well, because from the get-go it shows them that what they think about probability isn’t quite right.

First, to play the game itself, it’s good to have a little showboat, plus something that is easy to reset. So I built this:


(It’s a display board and I cut the doors open.) So it was much easier to play the game from the stay, and to keep my hands hidden as I do things behind the doors.

The other thing I did was, before we discussed the theoretical solution, I had them experiment. I gave each pair of students 3 playing cards, 1 red (for the car) and 2 black (for the goats), so one player played host while the other switched or stayed.

The main thing to learn is you really need to MAKE them switch, because teenagers are stubborn and are sure they were right the first time. But only staying won’t show all the necessary results.