Dr Nic’s blog

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 […]
12 June 2017

Maths trauma can be healed

Maths trauma and earthquakes Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Many people in my home town of Christchurch still suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of our earthquakes five or so years ago. I know I will never be the same again. The trauma began with the original terrifying experience of having the ground move in a way you never thought was even possible. It was perpetuated by over eighteen months of never knowing when the next earthquake (deceptively called aftershock) would hit. And the trauma still continues for many as they struggle to […]
24 April 2017

Graphs – beauty and truth

Graphs – beauty and truth (with apologies to Keats) A good graph is elegant I really like graphs. I like the way graphs turn numbers into pictures. A good graph is elegant. It uses a few well-placed lines to communicate what would take a paragraph of text. And like a good piece of literature or art, a good graph continues to give, beyond the first reading. I love looking at my YouTube and WordPress graphs. These graphs tell me stories. The WordPress analytics tell me that when I put up a new post, I get more hits, but that everyday […]
15 February 2017

Educating the heart with maths and statistics

What has love got to do with maths? This morning at the Twitter chat for teachers, (#bfc630nz) the discussion question was, How and what will you teach your students about life this year? As I lurked I was impressed at the ideas and ideals expressed by a mixed bunch of teachers from throughout New Zealand. I tweeted:  “I wonder how often maths teachers think about educating the heart. Yet maths affects how people feel so much.” My teaching philosophy is summed up as “head, heart and hands”. I find the philosophy of constructivism appealing, that people create their own understanding […]