In the December issue of Teaching Children Mathematics (NCTM), two innovative kindergarten teachers from Ireland showcase a delightful approach to teaching statistics through literature. Mairéad Hourigan and Aisling Leavy create an engaging and authentic problem for their students to solve: Which puppet should a (real) preschool teacher buy? The preschool teacher wants to purchase a puppet for the character who appears most frequently in her story. Hourigan and Leavy’s students were guided through a statistical framework called PPDAC (problem, plan, data, analysis, conclusion, cycle). Those students were highly engaged in meaningful math work, which is awesome!
This article has inspired me to go back to my work with Sharon Creech’s “Love That Dog,” a terrific book on poetry (and much more) for students about 9 or 10 years old. My student and I have already analysed the changes in Jack’s writing over the course of the fictional school year using qualitative measures. Jack wrote more and more poetry as his confidence improved, with increasingly complex lines, more interaction with his teacher and classmates, and greater revelation of his personal loss. Using Hourigan and Leavy’s model, I will ask my student to substitute a quantitative study for one of those qualitative measures. I think he’ll be intrigued by the process and I look forward to seeing what he chooses for his statistical analysis. I’ll let you know how it goes!