The world is full of questions that can be solved by doing a little research and balancing out the odds. Now the odds are usually in the form of data—and that type of problem solving is getting more recognition in the classroom.
The U.S. Census Bureau worked in collaboration with teachers and content creators nationwide like retired Cal Poly professor Roxy Peck and current Cal Poly professor Beth Chance, to come up with activities in the K-12 classroom levels called Statistics in Schools. These activities involve geography, history, math, and sociology data to give students a real-world application of statistics.
- PHOTOS COURTESY OF BETH CHANCE AND ROXY PECK
- SHOW ME THE STATS: Cal Poly professor Beth Chance (left) and retired Cal Poly professor Roxy Peck worked on a program with the U.S. Census Bureau called Statistics in Schools to give students a real world understanding of math.
The program was initially launched for the 2000 Census in order to demonstrate to students the importance of the census count. The program has since been revamped to follow the current classroom curriculum and data-driven world. Some of the real-world examples used are “An Investigation into Immigration and Migration in the United States” and “Voting Trends in America, 1964-2014.”
The role of Peck and Chance is to assist teachers at the middle and high school level with any questions they may have as well as checking the facts of the statistics examples.
Peck said she observed that many teachers were trying to find important and interesting topics for these activities to engage their students rather than just trying to teach another course subject.
“If you use artificial and contrived examples, student’s don’t really get the sense that it really is useful and used to answer important questions that could impact their lives,” she said.
Chance echoed that and said once students understood how to look at statistics outside the classroom they would learn how to apply it to their daily lives.
“I think the Census Bureau wants them to look at the data and to look at society as well as the world around them with a critical eye,” Chance said. Another aspect of data-based learning is applying the numbers to different areas of learning, not just in math courses, Chance said. Students are making the difficult transition of coming out of the classroom and being expected to interpret and make arguments where there isn’t just one right answer. Chance said that it’s important for students to learn how to make quality arguments and use data to their advantage.
Peck said that not only is this education program important for students to learn statistics in the classroom and apply it to their lives, but also how to decipher what data is important.
“The big goal is to make these data-based decisions and learn how to look at it while making better decisions with the information instead of just using our hunches,” Peck said.
San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden received a grant of $2,500 from the local organization Central Coast Funds for Children on Dec. 20. The grant funds youth outdoor education programs by providing class materials and scholarships for children in need.
Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.