Tag Archives: Statistics

Diversity in Mathematics

Diversity in Mathematics

Diversity is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  As a Korean kid in a primarily white neighborhood and surrounded by primarily white family and friends, I was often bullied.  Although, I’m sure it didn’t help that I was overweight as a child, but that’s a different story.  I know my parents tried their best to make sure that I felt included and whatnot, but I always felt racism and racial undertones a lot as kid, in school, in church, and pretty much everywhere I went on a daily basis.  To me, that’s not how America is supposed to be.  In my America, diversity is supposed to be a good thing.  In my America, diversity is supposed to be appreciated and welcomed.  To that end, I’m trying to do my part by integrating diversity in mathematics topics into my classroom and into my department.  Here are some of the things that I’ve done recently:

1.  Create a bulletin board celebrating the International Year of Statistics

I found out that 2013 is the International Year of Statistics and so I had my work study students create this bulletin board in my department using the posters printed from the event website.  Everyone who has walked by has been really intrigued by the word statistics written in so many languages.  I’ve heard many discussions about what languages they think are represented on the poster.  I’ve also heard many discussions about the world map with all of the uses of statistics in countries around the world.  Although this was just a small bulletin board, it ended up being such a great discussion starter!

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2.  Discuss books on teaching Mathematics as a Language with my Math for Education Students

In my Math for Education class we talk about communicating mathematics.  I always mention books that I think would be helpful for my students to read as resources for making sure that they can reach out to all of their students.  I remind them that they will be working with a diverse group and that not every child that they will be teaching will speak English as their first language and not every child they will be teaching will see the world the same way that they do.  Some of the books that I recommend to them are Teaching Math as a Language, ESL through Content-Area Instruction, and The Problem with Math is English.  This summer I actually attended the Midwest Institute for International/Intercultural Education and created an entire module to accompany topics of cultural diversity, human rights, and social justice into my Math for Education classes.  I highly encourage everyone to attend the Midwest Institute at least once!  Once the module has been published and approved, I’ll let everyone know.

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3.  Library Fair participation by my classes

Every semester for about 2 years now, I have had my students participate in my college’s library fair.  At the beginning of every semester the students are given a topic and are asked to create a tri-fold poster display that is hung up in the library for a week.  In the past our topics have been Indian, Russian, and Chinese Mathematicians and Statisticians.  This semester our topic is Polish Mathematicians and Statisticians.  Several of my students have already told me that they are very excited about participating in the project because they are of Polish decent and this is going to give them a good opportunity to learn more about their own culture!

The library fair is open to the entire community and anyone who attends the fair and answers questions about the displays that my students have created get MMII Credit, which is essentially credit toward a free cultural competency certificate that the college offers.  I always encourage all of my classes to get the certificate because I truly believe that diversity and cultural awareness is truly something that my students need to know more about.  Besides that, though, I remind my students that this certificate is something that will definitely look good on their resume when they are applying to transfer to a university in the future or applying for a job.

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4.  Other MMII Events

In addition to the Library Fair mentioned above, I have also arranged for my students to participate in other events as well, such as:

  • An “Innovation in Mathematics” Poster display at the college library
  • A talk on “Women in Mathematics” by a local female graduate student
  • A viewing of “Stand and Deliver” with a discussion session of diversity issues after the film

I know that what I’m doing isn’t necessarily for everyone.  Some people might argue that I need to just stick to teaching mathematics and not deal with anything else at all.  Honestly, I must say that most of my students have told me that they appreciate that I’m helping them to become more aware of the world around them.  For example, when my students were creating the Chinese Mathematicians posters, one student found out that there was a Chinese Mathematician at the university that was thinking about applying to and she actually went to the university and interviewed him for the poster.  She said that talking to the professor at the university was great confirmation for her that it was the university that she actually wanted to attend.  So, you never know what type of impact these projects will have on your students.  I highly encourage to incorporate diversity into your classes, whether in a big way or a small way.  I know you won’t regret it!

The Mathematics of Weight Loss

The picture below was taken in college when I was around my heaviest weight ever of 314 lbs.  I’ve always been a big person and I there is a lot that goes into why this is the case as well.  Was it the way I was raised?  Was it genetics?  Was it just me eating myself into a hole?  Well, this is not the place where I’m going to talk about that.


What I will say, though, is that this is the most recent picture of me a little over 70 lbs lighter than I was at my highest weight.  This is a blog post about math, so I’ll let you figure out my approximate current weight on your own.


With all of that out of the way, I’ll tell you what this blog post is really about.  I don’t really like talking about myself because I’m generally a very self-conscious person.  But this weekend I was thinking about what I might be able to do to share my weight loss journey with my students.  And the file below was created.  It’s a series of problems that I’ve created for my classes — one problem per class.

There’s problem for Linear Algebra, Calculus, Statistics, Beginning Algebra, and Math for Education.  The best part for me is that every problem asks a question about the same data set.  And it’s all based around the premise that I have a short-term weight loss goal that I’m trying to meet of 225 lbs by October 31, 2013.

Maybe this is a little bit over the top for what you might be willing to use with your own classroom, but it’s definitely a big step forward for me in talking about my weight loss publicly.  If I can’t talk about this with my students, what can I talk about, then?  Some of the fat jokes that I used to use in class don’t really work anymore.  Hey now!

The Mathematics of Weight Loss

New Probability Assignment

Last week I posted this on twitter after I attended the Math In Action Conference at Grand Valley State University:


However, I couldn’t post the assignment online right away as I hadn’t given it out to my students at that point.  Now I can.  Although I had lots of student questions about the assignment (more than I do a ‘normal’ assignment), I could tell that this problem had the students think outside of the box more than they would have had I not given them this assignment at all.

I tried to manage the student questions by starting a discussion thread on CANVAS and I jumped in at what I thought were appropriate times during the discussion.  For the most part, though, what I saw were students helping each other and confirming that they were all thinking along the same lines as they were working to complete the project.

I really liked this project and I would definitely assign this again.  I was even tempted to have the students find the population numbers on their own, but the problem is that Wikipedia, Wolfram|Alpha, and other sources were not all matching in there definition of a ‘village’ and of the actual population (some sources are using 2010 Census data and some even earlier).  Thus, giving the population numbers was definitely for my own sanity.

Mind Maps for Calculus, Algebra, and Statistics

This semester I decided that I wanted to organize all of the resources that I’ve found on the Internet onto Mind Maps for my Calculus, Algebra, and Statistics classes.  There was just too much that I wanted to tell my students about every semester that it started to become too overwhelming to repost the links on my LMS every semester (my courses don’t ever seem to copy very well from semester to semester).  The results are below.  Feel free to share with everyone.

For the calculus map, bit.ly/calcmap

For the algebra map, bit.ly/algebramap

For the statistics map, bit.ly/statmap



Guessing Ages Activity

This semester I tried a Guessing Ages Activity as a first day activity in my statistics classes.  My version of the activity is adapted from page 11 of Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks.  I found this activity to be a good ice breaker for the first day of class.  The students really enjoyed working in small groups to guess the ages of people and it gave me a chance to briefly review how to find the mean with students, a concept that they should already know from Pre-Algebra class.  Of course, later on in the class we talk about properties of the mean above and beyond what is learned in a Pre-Algebra class.  But this was an excellent way to review how to compute the mean.  It was also a good way to have the students do some calculations on the first day to break up the long list of definitions that is covered in Chapter 1 in the textbook.  Overall, I found this to be a successful activity.  And of course, the results from this activity can be used for further analysis later in the semester, but I have other activities I use down the stretch to get the students active again rather than just referring back to the same results again.



Teaching Control Charts

The other day in my statistics class, I talked about Control Charts.  I really wanted to drive home the point about the difference between individual runs charts and control charts.  So, I did a version of Deming’s Experiment with my students.

First of all, it was very difficult to get 1,000 marbles on very short notice, and even harder to get them in two specific colors.  I ended up going to the dollar store and buying the gemstones that people generally put in vases or in the garden.  The gemstones are sold in bags that are 14oz, but I can tell you now that there are about 100 per bag.  The hardest part for me was picking two colors of gemstones that I could actually tell the difference between since I am colorblind.

Next up was getting the cups for the students to scoop the gemstones up with.  Since I had students working in groups of 4, I had about 8 cups.  As described in the activity, I marked 7 of the 8 cups at a line for 50 gemstones, making sure to write ‘50’ on the bottom of the cup.  And I marked the 8th cup at a line for 30 gemstones, making sure to write ‘30’ on the bottom of that cup.  If you do not remember to do this, it is not a big deal.

The execution in class was pretty seamless.  I had each group take five samples and record their results from each of the five samples in tables on the board.  Then the students found the averages for the ‘total #’ and the ‘proportion red’.


Together we constructed the individual run chart for all 40 of the values (8 groups with 5 samples per group) and we talked about how there was an obvious dip within each sample.  At this point, I had all of the groups turn their cups over.  Of course, it turned out that the dip was caused by the group with the ‘30’ on the bottom of their cup.  This allowed us to talk about the importance of making sure that your measuring tool is properly calibrated, etc.  And by the way, if you did not write the numbers on the bottom of the cups, it will still be crystal clear which group had the faulty cup.

After we did that, we constructed an x-bar chart for the average totals of each of the 5 samples.  We discussed how it is difficult to tell that the group with the ‘30’ was making a mistake when looking at the averages rather than the individual runs.  And finally, we constructed a p-chart for the proportion red.  I told the students to use 5 samples with n = 8 observations in each of the 5 samples.

This was definitely a worthwhile activity.  It allowed for reinforcement of individual runs charts, control charts, and an opportunity to talk about faulty measurement tools, which I would not have been able to easily incorporate into the discussion otherwise.