Thursday, April 17, 2008

Graphing with Students

Originally uploaded by rodaniel
Representing data is an important and difficult concept for students. Providing direct instruction and notes on different types of graphs, how to read graphs, and how to represent data in different graphs is a great start to getting students to understand graphing. It's the next step where students really learn graphing. Students need the opportunity to read graphs from multiple sources, create graphs, compare/analyze different types of graphs, and discuss issues in creating different graphs. All of these components allow students to make connections, solidify their understanding, and communicate in multiple ways with their peers and teachers about the concepts.
It was interesting to explore for a few minutes different free, easy to use resources that help teachers create opportunities these goals in dynamic and engaging ways.
Getting Students to read graphs:
There are lots of places to get relevant graphs of data. USA Today may be one of the best sites to get students access to
The newspaper online publishes multiple graphs on a daily basis. In the sports section a quick poll on the most impressive baseball milestone about to be passed was a quick, engaging example of a bar graph. In the money section, the daily track of the NASDAQ, DJIA, and USA today Internet 50 are all tracked using updated broken line graphs. With a five minute exploration, I found examples of a pie graph in realty, six different polls that represent data, and several tables of data. Students could easily explore the site, collect examples and analyze the chart and representation of the data. Another great site for quickly finding multiple representations of data was What a great site for data. The site is free and full of data sets and graphs already made for those data.

hours playing video games
Originally uploaded by rodaniel

The students could easily compare different types of graphs and create new graphs that represent the data in different ways. I am really excited about this site, but a warning about some of the data sets being inappropriate for student use.
To continue the creation of charts there are several other sites, applications that are fantastic for this. It's always easiest to start with the software that is usually accessible in the classroom, and I think Microsoft Excel or Google Docs Spreadsheet application are fantastic for this purpose, easy for students to learn and manipulate, and easily accessible. If you are more adventurous and want to explore applications on the web, I encourage you to check out this resource beyond Swivel; Create a Graph, Kid's Zone- Learning with NCES. Fully functioning chart building capabilities and very student friendly. Not as rigorous as some of the other sites, but very functional, especially for middle school.

I know data representation is a critical concept for students in today's setting and I hope others will explore the potential sites available to them for getting students engaged in graphing beyond the basics.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Opening and Closing a Lesson

I am doing a lesson study with Laura Calloway from Fairview Independent High School in Ashland, KY and she shared this great premise for a bell ringer around substitution. There are several things I like about this strategy:
open-ended, flexible, has students moving around (a little bit), has students developing rationale for doing something (even without a lot of direct instruction into the 'method'), is quick, and flexible!

She admits that it's not original (and what in education is?), but has a great sense of how to get students involved in the lesson quickly, get them thinking, and get them talking about math. She doesn't have a metal whiteboard to let the students slide the sentence strips around (which would be optimal), but she didn't let that deter her from adapting to tape.

In our conversation, we thought about using a slightly modified version for the closing activity. The modification would be to put all the steps on the board and let the students put them in order, while explaining the rationale for each step. I thought it was a great way of accessing the strategy, putting more emphasis on student leadership/thinking, and, again, creating an engagement opportunity. Just a nice flow to a lesson with emphasis on the introduction of the lesson, making connections to what they've already learned, and then creating synthesis by letting the students go through a similar activity (they already understand the process) to express their understanding. If multiple sets of the other problem are created, then students who solve the problem a different way could show their process; what a great discussion that would create. Students could work in small groups to arrange the sentence strips in any order they wanted. Another group could graph the system and solving graphically to check the work. The teacher could create his/her own order with a specific oder in mind to spark conversation if the method presented didn't go in the order or manner desired. The conversation about getting the same answer but doing a different order would be incredibly valuable.

The other thing I like about this strategy is that it isn't expensive, but it is incredibly flexible, and creates all kinds of opportunities to create connections for students in any concept learning. Once the structure is introduced the students would be able to manage the process very quickly and begin to process the mathematics easier (at least that's what I think). I wanted to share with others this simple sentence strip activity that I think has great potential.