8 April 2019

Videos for teaching and learning probability distributions

Videos about probability distributions Many introductory statistics courses include a considerable section on probability distributions, featuring the binomial and normal distributions. Consequently we have a suite of videos about probability distribution models, to help learners and teachers, especially those who wish to aim for conceptual more than mathematical understanding. In this post I will outline the main videos available on the Dr Nic’s Maths and Stats YouTube Channel. They already belong to thousands of playlists and lists of recommended resources in textbooks the world over. We are happy for teachers and learners to continue to link to them. Having them listed […]
12 March 2019

Multiplication facts or multiplicative thinking

We just want them to know their tables! It is a truth universally acknowledged by high school maths teachers that students need to be fluent in multiplication facts. (Apologies to Jane Austen) You can read more about this claim in my previous post: What Maths Teachers wish Year 9 students knew I have been thinking about why this is the case, what is so special about multiplication facts, and whether it is more an indicator of something else. Maths teachers like to teach algebra. Simplifying algebraic expression, and factorising quadratics are made much easier if one is at home with multiplication […]
26 February 2019

What Maths Teachers wish Year 9 students knew

What do high school teachers want from their students when they arrive in Year 9? This is an important question. One of the biggest jumps in education in New Zealand is from primary/intermediate (years 1 to 8) to secondary (Years 9 to 13). In most cases children are taught by generalist teachers in primary/intermediate (which I will call primary from now on) and by specialist maths teachers at secondary school. Please be clear that this is NOT a criticism of Primary teachers. Primary teachers do an amazing job teaching such a wide range of subjects in a crowded curriculum to […]
11 February 2019

Patterns, Mathematics and Statistics

Is mathematics really about patterns? Confession time: Just as I’ve never really thought of maths as beautiful, I’ve struggled to understand why people talk about maths being about patterns. For me maths is powerful and maths is about abstracting from reality to build models. So I thought I would explore the idea of patterns in mathematics. Number Numbers show patterns. The fact that all prime numbers over 3 occur on either side of a multiple of six, is pattern I find appealing. The digits of multiples of three sum to multiples of three. Multiples of eleven are pretty exciting with […]
16 January 2019

Learning Progression Framework – A good idea or a poor use of time?

Not all that is good needs to be done That something is a good thing to do and will improve learning outcomes for all students, is not sufficient reason for doing it. I have recently become aware of the Learning Progression Framework. As explained in a previous post, there are multiple ways of expressing the level of learning in maths for learners in New Zealand schools, including the New Zealand curriculum (broad brush), Numeracy project stages (fine uni-dimensional and embraced by Primary teachers) and National Standards (no longer current, but casting a long shadow.) To this the LPF adds steps, […]
3 December 2018

I just need to pass the course: instrumental learning and statistics

I am interested in instrumental motivation, when a learner is doing a course of study in order to get a piece of paper – a qualification, which is generally the means to an end. I suspect that many students of statistics have instrumental motivation and I am interested in what affect that has on their learning and on the teacher of the course. Personal experience of learning All my life I have been a high-achieving, engaged learner. I liked to learn and to become more knowledgeable. I still like to learn and am not interested in any more qualifications. I […]
13 November 2018

Conceptual knowledge and procedural fluency when teaching maths and stats

Conceptual vs procedural when teaching maths and stats April 2008, Salt Lake City. It was my first NCTM conference and I was awed by the number of dedicated teachers of mathematics in one place. I had soaked in a pre-conference series about teaching statistics and my head was full of revolutionary ideas. I can’t remember the workshop I was attending but I declared that I saw no point in teaching students to calculate standard deviations by hand – and that I never did. The response was awesome! There was just about a stand-up battle between teachers who agreed with me […]
16 June 2018

Numeracy crisis in New Zealand

Numeracy levels are reaching crisis point An article in Stuff on 16 June 2018,  We are barely functioning, literally, highlighted the problem of literacy and numeracy in New Zealand. The article focusses on literacy, but numeracy levels are possibly worse. This comes as no surprise to me. The problem according to Doctor Nic The lack of numeracy skills is not new. Generations of people have struggled with maths and many suffer maths trauma, where even the thought of working with numbers can cause symptoms such as panic, the brain shutting down, tears, avoidance. Maths evokes your classic fight, flight or […]
14 May 2018

Spreadsheets, statistics, mathematics and computational thinking

We need to teach all our students how to design, create, test, debug and use spreadsheets. We need to teach this integrated with mathematics, statistics and computational thinking. Spreadsheets can be a valuable tool in many other subject areas including biology, physics, history and geography, thus facilitating integrated learning experiences. Spreadsheets are versatile and ubiquitous – and most have errors. A web search on “How many spreadsheets have errors?” gives alarming results. The commonly quoted figure is 88%. These spreadsheets with errors are not just little home spreadsheets for cataloguing your Lego collection or planning your next vacation. These spreadsheets […]
2 May 2018

Why decimals are difficult

Why decimals are difficult Recently a couple of primary teachers admitted a little furtively to me that they “never got decimals”. It got me wondering about what was difficult about decimals. For people who “get” decimals, they are just another number, with the decimal point showing. Clearly this was not the case for all. So in true 21st century style I Googled it: “Why are decimals difficult” I got some wonderfully interesting results, one of which is a review paper by Hugues Lortie-Forgues, Jing Tian and Robert S. Siegler, entitled “Why is learning fraction and decimal arithmetic so difficult?”, which I draw […]