Dr Nic’s blog

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 […]
5 April 2018

Statistical software for worried students

Statistical software for worried students: Appearances matter Let’s be honest. Most students of statistics are taking statistics because they have to. I asked my class of 100 business students who choose to take the quantitative methods course if they did not have to. Two hands went up. Face it – statistics is necessary but not often embraced. But actually it is worse than that. For many people statistics is the most dreaded course they are required to take. It can be the barrier to achieving their career goals as a psychologist, marketer or physician. (And it should be required for many other […]
19 March 2018

Improvisation in the Mathematics Classroom

The following is a guest post by Andrea Young, requested by Dr Nic Petty. Improvisation comedy Improvisation comedy, or improv for short, is theater that is unscripted.  Performers create characters, stories, and jokes on the spot, much to the delight of audience members.  Surprisingly, the goal of improv is not to be funny!  (Or maybe this isn’t surprising–people trying hard to be funny rarely succeed.)  Rather, improv comedians are encouraged to be “in the moment,” to support their fellow players, and to take risks–the humor follows as a natural consequence. What does this have to do with mathematics and mathematics […]
5 March 2018

There are many good ways to teach mathematics

There are many good ways to teach mathematics and statistics Hiding in the bookshelves in the University of Otago Library, I wept as I read the sentence, “There are many good ways to raise children.”  As a mother of a baby with severe disabilities the burden to get it right weighed down on me. This statement told me to put down the burden. I could do things differently from other mothers, and none of us needed to be wrong. The same is true of teaching maths and stats – “There are many good ways to teach mathematics and statistics.” (Which […]
15 February 2018

The problem with videos for teaching maths and stats

The message of many popular mathematics and statistics videos is harming people’s perceptions of the nature of these disciplines. I acknowledge the potential for conflict of interest in this post –  critically examining the role of video in learning and teaching mathematics and statistics – when StatsLC has a YouTube channel, and also provides videos through teaching and learning systems. But I do wonder what message it sends when people like Sal Khan of Khan Academy and Mister Woo are applauded for their well-intentioned, and successful attempts to take a procedural view of mathematics to the masses. Video by its […]
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 […]