Back to Basics

There are so.many.things out there on math blogs. I share my own, I forward others to my department, I try them in my class.

And I love it.

After this post, a comment sent me to Math With Bad Drawing’s Probability stories, and Ben Orlin graciously gave me permission to repost them on my (private) class blog. One of my students even asked when their next bedtime story was!

I love coming up with really interesting ways to teach things, and engage my students, and do inquiry.

But sometimes I need to take a step back and remind myself that isn’t always the answer. (I think.) As I mentioned, my AP classes have just started Probability. I’m not that great at teaching it. It’s my students weakest area, so its a safe bet its mine too (and my fault). Most of my class had to retake that test last year.

So I spent a lot of time and agony on this years schedule. I added a couple of days. I tried to come up with great things to do.

But you know what I think we need right now? Some practice. We need to do some problems. We need the time and the space and the permission to draw 20 Venn diagrams and fill them in correctly, til it isn’t at all scary anymore. We need to find conditional probability of six different situations, one at a time. And we need to make sure we have our vocab and probability rules down.

Ironically, this is so, so easy to plan. I wrote 5 problems. I’m done teaching for two days. It feels lazy, but that doesn’t mean it is–and it doesn’t mean that’s bad for my students.

I wish I was better at really teaching this so they got it…but until I am, giving them to time and space to really practice (and review each problem, one by one) is the most beneficial thing I can think of.

Do you feel guilty when you do “boring” things in class? Any more ideas on how to help my kids with probability?


2 responses to “Back to Basics

  1. S

    I feel guilty on the days I plan “practice” for not doing anything interesting. I feel guilty on assessment days if I haven’t done given enough opportunity for practice.

    I have a couple questions…1 what standards are you teaching (CCSS, State?, other) and 2. what activities are you already doing?

    I ask because I don’t mind sharing and if you’re doing something I’m not I don’t mind stealing, ahem, borrowing. I love doing probability because it gives me the opportunity to play with dice and cards and these make it easy for my students to find some common ground. It also gives me the chance to show them that math has great application… (Though I still can’t get approval for that field trip to the casinos:)


    • Mary

      Its AP, so I’m not using a specific set of standards…my book? I use “The Practice of Statistics”.

      Right now we’re just doing the basics of probability, so I’ve done a bunch of two way tables and venn diagrams (and although I’m bored I actually don’t think my students are at all) which seems to be working.

      We just started on conditional probability and I have some fun activities like using fun size bags of skittles & m&ms to find conditional probability. But I’m not using them, I’m doing more problems. I’m still pretty uneasy about this approach, but its worth a try since fun-activities-and-discussion got us nowhere last year.

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