I had a great opportunity to teach statistics to 5th grade German and Scottish students together with my own students. Statistics was a new area of Maths to my students, and I did not know how familiar it would be to the other students either. Students did not know each other because they had just arrived in Finland. It was also a new situation for my students and me because we would speak in English. All three countries started a three years Erasmus project “Entrepreneurial and Innovative Solutions to Climate Change” where they want to compare the effects of climate change in different countries. The theme of the project is very similar to our new Finnish curriculum – phenomenon based learning. In this learning method, it is important to study the theme from many different viewpoints, an interdisciplinary combination of many subjects. The subjects could be: Maths, language and social studies.
How do some textbooks start teaching statistics?
The start of our book has a lot of data for students to classify. However, the data is about an imaginary scenario! The next chapter trains students to read line graphs and bar charts. Then there are calculations of mean, median, mode and range. The only problem is that all has to be calculated individually. The content is little too pretentious, far from students’ life.
If you want to make learning interesting and fun for students, they have to take part in their own learning. As teachers, we value the same things in our professional development as students. Learning by doing is suitable for all ages. It contributes to deeper understanding. Better learning happens when students can collect data from themselves!
How did we start?
Instead of sitting in rows, students sat in groups. In every group, there was a mixture of all nationalities. I had collected from newspapers a lot of different diagrams. Each group got different kinds of diagrams. Their first task was to read and interpret them. This part was the most demanding to my students because they had to translate everything to English. The second task was that each member had to choose one statistic and make a question of it. Other members answered and this was how they were practicing the reading of statistical charts and graphs. In the next step, the group had to choose one diagram, make a question of it, and stand in front of the class to ask it. Students took the role of the teacher. They asked and gave feedback to the questioner.
At the same time, I made my observations on how the groups were working. Based on my observations, I gave each group a different task as the next step. The task was to collect all the data from the classroom. They had to decide who would collect the data, how they’d mark it, and what kind of diagram they would use. How many siblings do they have? How did each of them come to school that day? What are their eye colours? What kind of pets do they have? And so on.
In the next lesson, I taught them how to show the diagram in excel. Students were so excited to put their data into the same format like the ones in newspapers. In the end, they sent their diagram to me by OneDrive.
Every student was involved. Everyone was successful. They could share their ideas and learn from each other, and they had fun!
By: Maarit Rossi