Thursday, October 15, 2009

Probably Thinking

I'm teaching an intersession class to first and second graders right now. (If you need/want more information on intersession, it's at the end of this post.) We're studying probability. I really enjoy this topic in math and thought it would be fun to explore for a couple of weeks.However, I made that decision without doing any real research or planning (anyone who knows me well is not shocked by this). Later, when I did begin to plan, at the last possible minute, I learned that probability is not really in the state standards for those grades. This appears to be because first and second graders aren't really able to comprehend probability (something I learned as I continued my research, somewhat desperately).

So, I turned to the Patterns of Thinking to help me plan. A couple of fabulous folks at Think and Thrive were exceptionally helpful to me and pushed me even further in my thinking. Derek Cabrera has said several times that probability is all about systems, something I had, so far, been unable to wrap my head around. After some time on Thinkipedia and a discussion with Derek this was beginning to make sense. And probability was beginning to seem really complicated.

So far, three days in, things are going pretty well. We started with the ideas of possible and not possible (impossible) and then moved on to likely and not likely (unlikely). Just these concepts were surprisingly difficult for the kids to understand. Surprisingly, at least, to me. Then I added the idea of certain and we looked at these in a line, moving from impossible to unlikely to equally likely (which we haven't really explored yet) to likely to certain. I think the students are beginning to comprehend those concepts.

Today, the third day, we actually spent some time pulling bears out of a bag and recording the data. We'll do more with the bears and some spinners tomorrow. For now, we'll really focus on collecting the data and discussing what we notice. Next week I'll try to bring this data back around to these concepts we've dug into this week. I really believe the kids' understanding of these concepts is much better than if we had simply begun with the activities and data collection. It's really been exciting.

If you understand the concept of intersession or if you simply don't care, you're done!

Intersession explanation: Our school begins 5 weeks before the majority of schools in our district. We have regular classes for the first quarter and then we are 'off' for two weeks. We then do the second quarter, have winter vacation and an extra week 'off'. Then, third quarter followed by spring break and another two weeks 'off'. This puts us right with everyone else for the fourth quarter. During those weeks 'off' we offer intersession classes. These have a math or language arts focus, but are theme based. We have offered cooking, theater, camping, tennis, art, music, and video classes, to name just a few. The kids are in one class for the morning and a different class for the afternoon. Most of the classes contain students from two grade levels. It's a lot of fun for the kids and for those of us who teach.

1 comment:

damned_cat said...

probability is one of the toughest strands for us, too, and i teach fifth. even though it's not in the standards for your GL (or possibly even within easy reach of their minds at this developmental point) kudos for introducing it and for scaffolding well!