Monday, May 2, 2011

Math Research in the Library

M + A - T / H x ME = ?!?

I'll admit it: I'm not a math fan. I suffered through Calc I and Statistics in college, but that was the limit of my tolerance for numbers. My brain just doesn't work that way.

Unfortunately, one of my goals this year was to collaborate with every department in the building. And that meant math. Even though I don't like it. Painful? You bet! Happily, for my own personal sanity, we came up with a collaborative project that I'm IN LOVE with. It checks all my boxes: it's relevant, it's engaging, and it utilizes technology.

Here's what we did:

I am working with an Algebra class that's a mix of 8th grade accelerated students and regular 9th grade students. And we're talking about bullying. Bullying? Math? Huh? Actually, it's a beautiful fit. My building, like most others across the country, is invested in preventing bullying. To get a clear picture of the problem in our building, administrators decided that we needed a survey. So we wrote one. Check it out here.

Our math students are now using the data collected in the survey to produce charts and analyze the results. This dovetails perfectly with their benchmarks, which require them to construct histograms and scatter plots. I'm learning ideas like "quantitative vs. qualitative" and "bivariate vs. univariate." We're utilizing Excel to organize the data and produce visual representations of the results. After completing the charts, the students will build a bulletin board to unveil the information to the rest of the building.

The kids are totally digging it because they're investigating THEIR PEERS and THEIR BUILDING. It's been interesting for them to see how their personal experiences compare with the population at large. As a librarian, I love it because:
  • The information is really relevant and timely
  • We get to talk about bias
  • We're introducing most of the kids to a technology they've never used before
  • It showcases math's application in the REAL WORLD
It's a great project for you to implement in your building. Pick a topic that's important, do a survey, and then have the kids analyze the results. It works for any math curriculum that involves statistics and could easily be done in elementary through high school libraries.

I won't bore you with all the survey results, but I do have to brag on one question: Students were asked to identify places where bullying is least likely to occur, and of all the options, the library came it near the very top. We think we're a safe, comfortable environment for a lot of kids, but it's nice to have that backed up by the data!

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