The following is from a presentation I gave at the 2014 Society for Classical Learning Conference. The title of my talk was “Math for Goodness Sake.” Here is the abstract:
The mission of Regents School of Austin (and undoubtedly any classical Christian education) is to equip students to know, love and practice that which is true, good and beautiful. How does the teaching of mathematics fit into this mission? There are numerous resources that address the beauty and truth of mathematics, but how do we instill in students an appreciation for the inherent goodness of math (especially since many students experience mathematics as confusing, stressful and generally contrary to anything considered good)?
Mathematics is at its core a good and virtuous activity and its enjoyment is not reserved for the “intellectual elite.” This talk will examine how the goodness of mathematics is actually rooted in a proper understanding of the ordered nature of God. When viewed through this lens we can see mathematics as a missional activity that increases our versatility as worshipers of Christ. Several practical methods for developing what I term “mathematical affections” will be presented for consideration and classroom use.
You can find a full list of presenters and the topics discussed in the 2014 SCL Conference Program. To get a further idea of some of the great discussion the SCL has going on the teaching of mathematics specifically I highly recommend checking out the SCL Journal, Fall 2013 – Moving Beyond Mechanics: Teaching Math Classically.
Below you will find my PowerPoint presentation (simply click the image for the link) and the written outline of my talk. I believe SCL will be recording presentations, so hopefully I will eventually be able to post (or link to) the audio as well.
I was fortunate enough to be selected to give a presentation on service-learning in statistics as part of the “Best Practices” evening of the AP Statistics exam reading in Kansas City. In case you are unfamiliar with the event I encourage you to check out “Best Practices” presentations from prior years over at APStatsMonkey (even if you are familiar with the event I still encourage you to check out these great resources and consider how you might implement some of those ideas in your own classroom).
Below you will find the PowerPoint that accompanied my short and sweet 5 minute presentation (click on the image below to access the PowerPoint). Due to time constraints, the meat of the information can be found in the resource documents that I have also included below.
The main question I aim to address is this: what is the best resource that a teacher can introduce into his/her statistics classroom to help students make meaningful connections between course material and the true value of statistics?
I don’t think it is technology (be that calculators, iPhone apps, online applets, or statistical software packages) which is often discussed as a teaching aid in statistics. I don’t even think that is integrating current articles and published studies into classroom discussion.
Don’t get me wrong, both technology and current events can be powerful pedagogical tools and there certainly is a place for them in the classroom. As a teacher who regularly uses technology and “real-life” articles in my lessons, I would like to submit to you that there is actually something else, something better, that when used well can really cement the value of statistics in the hearts and minds of students. That something: service-learning. As it turns out, I think the best resource that you can introduce into a statistics classroom is to actually get the students out of the classroom and into the local community.
Why I think service-learning is an effective vehicle for communicating the significance and value of statistics to students:
- Students are actually doing statistics.
- There is something about the physical practice of getting outside the classroom to collect and analyze data that implants an appreciation for the processes of statistics into students.
- Students are actually doing statistics in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable (read: human) way.
- In service-learning there is interaction with actual human beings. The data on the paper now has a face and the analysis becomes a little messier and less clinical. I find this tends to stretch students out of their comfort zone in a good way. It also encourages their focus to shift from individualistic outcomes (such as what grade they might receive) to more altruistic aims of education.
- Students are actually doing statistics in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable (read: human) way and they (as well as the community) are experiencing firsthand the fruits of their labor.
- I require students to complete their project by giving an oral presentation to the service agency. Interpreting confidence intervals/levels, p-values, and significance levels becomes so much more meaningful to students when they have to explain these concepts to a service-agency and build connections for the agency as to what to do with this information practically moving forward.
Check out the presentation and the resource documents for more information. Always feel free to contact me through this site if you have any further questions or want to discuss the topic in more detail.
This is not the first time that I have written about (or presented at a conference) on the topic of service-learning. In addition to the resources that you will find below, feel free to check out some of the prior posts on service learning:
- Serving through Statistics: the first (and largest) service project that I implemented complete with video summaries and interview with students.
- CAMT 2012 Presentation: Presentation I gave at the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching based on the first statistics service-learning project mentioned above.
- Geometry and the Homeless: the first service-learning project I did with my geometry students. An updated version from this last school year should find its way onto the site by mid summer.
- START HERE: Project Overview and Document Descriptions
- Project Details
- Project Checklist
- Project Calendar
- Project Rubric
- Initial Contact Email Template
- Proposal Guidelines
- Sample Report 1 – Mission Possible Volunteer Analysis
- Sample Report 2 – Spiritual Growth Assessment for Austin Ridge Bible Church
- Mathematics Resources Page for the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
- Issue of PRIMUS Dedicated to Successful Service Learning Resources (Volume 23, Issue 6, 2013).
- Service-Learning Session from 2011 Joint Math Meetings (Organized by Dr. Crisman)
- Mathematics in Service to the Community: concepts and models for service learning in the mathematical sciences, Charles Robert Hadlock (MAA Notes Series)
- I will be working this summer on an independent study of service-learning in math education for my doctoral coursework. The end goal of the course is to have produce an extensive literature review of the resources currently available on the topic. I plan to share that information here by the end of this summer.
The journal Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith (PSCF) is planning to devote a theme issue to the interplay between mathematics and the Christian faith. Russ Howell has published the lead essay for it, which is designed to encourage response essays focusing on a wide-range of issues.
From James C. Peterson, Editor of PSCF:
Russell Howell has co-authored the textbook Complex Analysis for Mathematics and Engineering which is in its sixth edition, and is the co-editor of the HarperOne book Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith. His essay describes the latest challenges for mathematics and Christian faith. The essay is intended as an invitation. Readers are encouraged to take up one of the insights or challenges, or maybe a related one that was not mentioned, and draft an article (typically about 5,000-8,000 words) that contributes to the conversation. These can be sent to Dr. Howell. He will send the best essays on to peer review and then we will select from those for publication in a mathematics theme issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. The lead editorial in the December 2013 issue of PSCF outlines what the journal looks for in article contributions. For full consideration for inclusion in the theme issue, manuscripts should be received electronically before 30 June 2014.
For those readers who prefer to take a literary approach in sharing their ideas, please submit essays (up to 3,000 words), poetry, fiction, or humour inspired by the invitational essay to Emily Ruppel for possible publication in God and Nature magazine.
The page of the latter link lists June 30 as a deadline for submitting responses to Russ (email@example.com), but he assures me there is flexibility in that deadline.
Please consider this opportunity.
I will be submitting an article on the influence of Christianity on mathematics education. Feel free to contact me as well if you have any questions and I will be sure to pass them along to Russ.