Updated: Nov 13, 2020
This guest blog post comes to us from Dash Young-Saver, AP Stats teacher and creator of Skew The Script
“You can take those candies and shove them up your…”
These were the last words Michael spoke to me before leaving class and leaving high school – permanently.
We were using candy to simulate sampling methods. It was my first year teaching, and I was proud of myself for creating an interactive activity rather than a boring worksheet.
Michael didn’t see it that way.
I later found out that Michael’s uncle had offered him a $12/hour construction job. With this offer on the table and with money issues piling up at home, school probably felt useless. In a district in which only 2% of students pass the AP Stats exam (60% of students pass nationally), I offered Michael a maddeningly infantilizing and irrelevant classroom experience. My sampling activity was a last straw. He needed to support himself and his family – not play around with candy.
His reaction was rational. My classroom was not.
After Michael left, I changed my approach. I asked my students what they wanted to learn about. Their chosen topics turned into statistical explorations of policing and race, immigration, medicine, the Spurs’ chance at winning the NBA title, and so much more.
The change was staggering. Our classes ran long with debates that utilized statistical reasoning. Students got together on their own time for projects (including a report on our superintendent’s use of misleading data…I got in trouble). Importantly, I got to see the full range of my students’ humanity, as they used math both to interrogate their oppression and to explore beauty and joy in their world.
The results showed “on paper” too. The first year I ran a relevant classroom, more students at the school passed the AP Statistics exam than in the previous 16 years combined. It was the highest pass rate the district had seen at a neighborhood school in the past decade. Note: these were their accomplishments – not mine.
Among the lessons my students and I co-generated, the most powerful ones promoted statistical thinking and dialogue around social issues. This brought up a question: How much more powerful would this dialogue be if it extended beyond our classroom?
So, this summer, I launched Skew The Script: a website that provides socially relevant math lessons to teachers. The lessons identify misleading arguments and create positive discourse – skills that will help students from all backgrounds collaboratively tackle our country’s long-standing systemic problems.
However, I acknowledge that my lessons have gaps. When I made my class relevant, I sometimes dropped experience-based lesson formats. Lindsey and Luke’s work made me realize that such a trade-off wasn’t necessary. The best lessons are not the ones that are either relevant or experience-based – the best lessons are both.
That’s why today we’re releasing our first Stats Medic / Skew The Script collaborative lesson. This lesson takes a Skew The Script context – the Jenn/John gender discrimination experiment – and puts it into the Stats Medic EFFL learning structure that allows students to statistically investigate their own class’s biases. Contrary to taking away from the context, EFFL enhances relevance by centering student experience in the data analysis.
ACTIVITY: What's In a Name?
Answer Key: PDF
I am forever indebted to Lindsey and Luke for their support. As we work together to create more lessons this school year, our materials will push students to see bias in their world, investigate claims rigorously, and tackle systemic problems through compassion, empathy, and evidence-based change.
If we can do that, I’m confident our students will build a better world: a world of heightened discourse and positive social change. A world in which students – like Michael – won’t ever have to sell their education for $12 an hour.