Aug 022011

At the NCTM Reasoning & Sense Making Institute, I attended the session given by Beth Chance and Henry Kranendonk, two of the three authors of the Reasoning and Sense Making in Statistics and Probability book.

I have that book on my bookshelf at school, and I have looked at it, but have not tried any of the lessons in it. I read the lessons at the end of last year, and said to myself, “Are they crazy!” “I don’t understand what they are getting at!” and “Maybe next year.”

After their session, where they essentially went through several of the lessons in fairly good detail (the Old Faithful Data and the Will Women Run Faster than Men in the Olympics as well as others) I am much more confident of doing the lessons successfully.

They had a handout of the material, which I scanned and you can download here.

I apologize for the missing data on the women column, but my copy was very faint also. However, if you go to the book link above, the “Read an Excerpt” is the full chapter from the book in PDF form! Yay!

I am not here to sell their book though. I feel the book is worth buying, now that I have spent better time with it, but the front side of their handout scared me silly.

Go ahead, download it now. I will wait and get some coffee while you do.


See what I mean? Under “Habits of Mind in Statistical Thinking” they have 24! bullets under 5 sections. Here is my problem with that list. A habit is something you do unconsciously, because you have done it so often and so repeatedly that it becomes second nature; like breathing.

How can a list of 24 bullets become second nature? The first and second time I read this list I just got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. If this was successful Stats teaching, then I have been failing. Clearly something has to change in the way I teach Stats and what I teach in Stats.

And then it dawned on me. What must change is the quantity of Reasoning and Sense Making I do in the course. After all, let’s examine the list, not for the whole statements but just the root verb stems.

describe, analyze / analyzing (2x), looking for, making deductions, choosing, creating, considering, drawing conclusions, comparing (2x), evaluating (2x) questioning, applying, noticing, identifying, understanding (2x), connection, considering, determining, justifying, and looking for

When you get rid of the other language, the details of what the statements are, and focus on those verbs right there, it is easy to see how a habit can be formed. It is not hard through repeated effort to construct those habits in learners.

See, all those verbs have something in common. They all have Reasoning and Sense Making (RSM) as their goal. Anything I do in class that does not have the goal of RSM is officially a waste of time. There it is. There is the big takeaway from the session.

I just figured out what every lesson I teach in AP Stats needs to revolve around. Now I just have to rewrite all of my lessons to focus on that. That will be the subject of many more posts.


As an aside, Beth used some dice and applets in the session that were very cool and useful. The Dice showed an 11 in 6 out of 9 throws. I searched for something that would do that, and found them here and here and here again. These are very useful to generate some statistical thinking skills in the learners.

The applets she used can all be found on the website. There are additional materials on this site from other presentations they have given. I may end up using her applets almost exclusively, just because they are all on one site. It makes life easy.

  2 Responses to “Beth Chance, Henry Kranendonk, and an overwhelming task in stats”

  1. I am very impressed with your above blog. I wish we could talk some more. The book was a challenge to write – and yes, it maybe is asking far more than any of us can deliver. I taught an Upward Bound program this summer at Marquette University (Milwaukee) and developed a few of the lessons in the book. There were days I hit a home run (active and engaged kids, with focused questions, etc. -jut like I attempted to summarize in my chapters of the book). Then there was the last day of class – and it was less quite bad (and yes, that is not in the book!). Not sure what this means other than teaching is the most rewarding and frustrating profession – and sometimes it is all rolled into one. I love it – I hate it – I love it! Anyway, my kids country data posters were awesome – they talked about the world as if they really cared about it. Later in the week, they could care less. We keep trying – and I can tell you do also. Thanks so much for this blog. Henry

  2. Thank you Henry. I can tell you that the lessons in your book will be used this year, and I will be posting results, both successes and failures here and on twitter.

    I agree, teaching is the most rewarding and frustrating profession I have had, and this is my third career. I still would not give it up for anything at this point.

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