M&M’s: A project on probability

My co-teacher and I are working with our enrichment group (Success period for those of you who follow the 8-step protocols) on probability this week.  We’ve been able to bring in a lot of engagement activities for the students through this unit.

– We’ve used M&M fun-size bags to take data and study probability of certain colors being in a bag.
– We’ve taken data and based on that data, created rules to reverse engineer what happens in an M&M plant: what the rules are for bag assembly.
– Students are gaining practice entering data into Excel, and creating bar and pie graphs for this data.  They have some stringent requirements to refine the graph so the colors of the pie match the colors of the M&M’s, and also we are focusing on labeling.

In the reverse engineering study with a sample size of 18 bags, we’ve discovered that:
(1) Two M&M’s out of every bag must be green.
(2) There are never just one color of M&M’s in a bag.
(3) The number of M&M’s in a fun-size bag varies from 13 to 21. (Wow.)
(4) The only colors that will definitely be in every bag are red and orange.

Kidblogging at Dickinson

Since my last post, two of our seventh grade teachers have begun using KidBlogs.

What KidBlogs offers educators is a blog for every student in a class.  When you set up your class, you choose a subfolder name (ours is DFAA7thGrade) and then each student completes an easy signup process to start a blog under that subfolder.  The instructor can also start a blog page.  Within your class set of blogs, students and teachers can comment on each others’ posts.  The blogs are locked off so that only the registered users in your class can view these.  The instructor has full administrative privileges and can moderate and delete posts or comments.

Students were blogging the same day as the signup.  Since our two teachers are in the same grade level and see many of the same students, they decided to use the same blogs for both math and social studies.

How are students using KidBlogs?

  • To post summaries of a class activity or project, on their own blog pages.
  • To respond on the instructor’s blog to a post or writing prompt.
  • To upload e-files, such as PowerPoints, Excel, or Word documents — for grading and for peer review.
  • To practice digital citizenship.

Our students are enjoying it.  Having students blog also adds some continuity to the days that you have the laptop cart in your classroom.  If it becomes a routine for students to blog  at the end of every class period when you have the laptops, it adds some order to the day and also gives students a focus.  It also give you something to show for every day you use the laptops in your classroom: student posts could be scored similar to an exit slip, and you will have an ample portfolio of evidence of learning that accumulates throughout the semester.



Project-Based Learning in Math: Getting Started

Andrew Miller, consultant for the Buck Institute of Education, published a nice article on getting started with Project-Based Learning in Math.  Included are some thoughts on when projects are appropriate and how PBL fits in well with the Common Core.

I also recently found a Maryland teacher blog with a great deal of content (specifically for math and engineering on the high school level) but with one important lesson to remember: moving toward PBL is a process.  Mr. Yates, who teaches in Maryland, states he began with projects interspersed when the opportunity was there (time, resources, and alignment.)  After several years of teaching in this way, he has moved to a new goal of building the course around a themed and scaffolded series of projects.