Authentic Games & PBL: February 2009 Archives

Can Teen Love & Statistics Come Together?

| | Comments (1)

There have been several strategies proposed to encourage teen girls to relate more to math, but perhaps the most romantic is The Manga Guide to Statistics as publicized in the Chance Newsletter from Dartmouth. It's the story of typical teen girl Rui who realizes that the path to the heart of "dreamy" Mr. Igarashi is to learn statistics. Of course, this means her father hires a math whiz tutor which creates an instant romantic triangle.

Based on the sample chapters posted, the story seems to be surprisingly well written, magically combining statistical concepts with real-world situations (e.g. curves on an exam or categorizing ramen noodle restaurant types). Providing a narrative is important to learning how to do problems in context, but many narratives seems forced. These scenarios seem plausible somehow.

The tone is also gently humorous, like a father fondly recalling his ditzy teen daughters who manage to make sense in the end. An interesting scene is when our tutor tries to explain Rui and her friend Yumi, why a 90 in an English exam is not scored as well as a 90 in a Classical Japanese exam. Of course he really needs access to the raw scores to the class. No problem says Yumi: "I have them" (a mystery not lost on Rui). Looks like some girls are smarter than they first appear.

I've only read two excerpts (linked from the Chance site), but I admit I am intrigued. How WILL our tutor hero convey binomial distribution to Rui? It's an interesting story. Is it interesting enough for our target audience?

On A Cultural Note...

This manga really is from Japan, hence the choices of both English and Classical Japanese as foreign language offerings. It's interesting to see how teen girl life is both the same and different here. You may even learn a little bit about different types of ramen. Interesting.

Collaborative Data Projects

| | Comments (1)

I ran into an interesting site on collaborative data collection at the The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education.

The site is a series of data collection activities which students in a school can do such as timing and temperature for boiling water (varies w/ altitude), collecting and analyzing local water samples, etc. I like these because the activities are simple, but students participate in actual research because they can submit results to a global database.

It's also a good example of how we can use non-specialists to gather valuable scientific data. I know of programs where people report which bird visit their feeders (to Cornell) and local weather observations (to the local TV station). What can we do to harness this kind of interest so that more people can become "weather experts" (like one of our writers).