Dr Nic’s blog

5 February 2018

The Central Limit Theorem – with Dragons

To quote Willy Wonka, “A little magic now and then is relished by the best of men [and women].” Any frequent reader of this blog will know that I am of a pragmatic nature when it comes to using statistics. For most people the Central Limit Theorem can remain in the realms of magic. I have never taught it, though at times I have waved my hands past it. Students who want that sort of thing can read about it in their textbooks or look it up online. The New Zealand school curriculum does not include it, as I explained […]
10 January 2018

Dr Nic, Suzy and Gina talk about feelings about Maths

This hour long conversation gives insights into how three high achieving women feel about mathematics. Nicola, the host, is the author of this blog, and has always had strong affection for mathematics, though this has changed in nature lately. Gina and Suzy are both strongly negative in their feelings about maths. As the discussion progresses, listen for the shift in attitude. Listen here to the podcast. And here is a picture of the three of us. Here are some of the questions we discuss over the hour: Tell me about your relationship with maths. How do you think your feelings […]
9 January 2018

Videos for teaching and learning statistics

It delights me that several of my statistics videos have been viewed over half a million times each. As well there is a stream of lovely comments (with the odd weird one) from happy viewers, who have found in the videos an answer to their problems. In this post I will outline the main videos available on the Statistics Learning Centre YouTube Channel. They already belong to 24,000 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 all in one place should make […]
15 December 2017

Lessons for a budding Social Enterprise from Elevate

Statistics Learning Centre is a social enterprise set up by Dr Nic Petty and Dr Shane Dye after leaving the University of Canterbury. Our aim is to help the world to feel better about mathematics and statistics, by inventing, creating and disseminating resources and ideas to learners and teachers. We believe that facility and confidence with mathematics and statistics is as important as literacy in enabling individuals to participate fully in their world. We didn’t always have our mission or aim or vision as well articulated, and if asked we tended to give some vague description like – “we make […]
2 December 2017

Mind the gap

Teach the students you have Our job as teachers at any level is to teach the students we have. I embrace this idea from Dr Kevin Maxwell: “Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them.” I believe Maxwell’s focus was on the diverse learning needs we have in our classes. I would like to take another angle on this. If students do not have the needed skills to learn what we are teaching, then we need to […]
9 October 2017

Rich maths with Dragons

Thanks to the Unlocking Curious Minds fund, StatsLC have been enabled to visit thirty rural schools in Canterbury and the West Coast and provide a two-hour maths event to help the children to see themselves as mathematicians. The groups include up to 60 children, ranging from 7 to 12 years old – all mixed in together. Here is a link to a story about us from Unlocking Curious Minds. What do mathematicians do? We begin by talking about what mathematicians do, drawing on the approach Tracy Zager uses in “Becoming the Math teacher you wish you had”. (I talk more […]
18 September 2017

Political polls – why they work – or don't

Political polls – why do they work – or don’t This is written in the week before the 2017 New Zealand General Election and it is an exciting time. Many New Zealanders are finding political polls fascinating right now. We wait with bated breath for each new announcement – is our team winning this time? If it goes the way we want, we accept the result with gratitude and joy. If not, then we conclude that the polling system was at fault. Many wonder how on earth asking 1000 people can possibly give a reading of the views of all […]
31 July 2017

What mathematicians do

What do mathematicians do? We ask children what mathematicians do, and the answers include, “they do mathematics”, “they get things right”, and “they answer questions.” Hmm. Recently in guest workshops I asked about 120 pre-service primary/elementary teachers how many see themselves as mathematicians. Each time, there were about 10% who identified as mathematicians. I then asked them, how many would like the children they teach to think of themselves as mathematicians. It was almost 100% to the affirmative. And then I ask, “Do we have a problem?” We do have a problem. I also introduced the idea of maths trauma, […]
20 July 2017

Dragon Trainer rich mathematical task

I love rich mathematical tasks. Here is one for all levels of schooling. What do you think? Background to rich tasks A rich task is an open-ended task that students can engage with at multiple levels. I use the following information from the nrich website when I am talking to teachers about rich tasks. Background to Dragonistics data cards In this task we use our Dragonistics data cards, which are shown here. For a less colourful exercise you could use 24 pieces of card with numbers 1 to 8 on them. Each dragon has a strength rating of between 1 […]
13 July 2017

Mathematics and statistics lessons about elections

Study elections in mathematics because it is important Too often mathematics is seen as pure and apolitical.  Maths teachers may keep away from concepts that seem messy and without right and wrong answers. However, teachers of mathematics and statistics have much to offer to increase democratic power in the upcoming NZ general elections (and all future elections really). The bizarre outcomes for elections around the world recently (2016/2017 Brexit, Trump) are evidence that we need a compassionate, rational, informed populace, who is engaged in the political process, to choose who will lead our country. Knowledge is power, and when people […]