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“I know it when you do it, but…”

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Two AP Statistics Writing Projects: Balloon Help Tutorials The Math Annotation Project Robert Gerver, Ph.D. North Shore High School Glen Head, NY

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What Are These Projects? They are writing projects designed to get the students comfortable with the frequent, specific, writing requirements kids are not used to in math classes. They require students to explain selected (or all) aspects of a solution to a problem or topic development; enhancing it with anything they feel helps explain the material.

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How Do These Projects Differ? The Balloon Help Tutorials are poster projects. They will involve some arts and crafts as well as writing. They summarize a particular problem’s solution. They can be completed in groups or individually. The Math Annotation Project is done totally on a computer, and is a writing project designed to summarized one day’s worth of class notes and homework. It is best done individually.

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The Math Annotation Project: Balloon Help in an 8 ½ by 11 Format Rotate students throughout the year, on a daily basis, to annotate one day of notes. Pick students randomly at end of period. Drafts can be required. Create a binder of every day’s notes. Binder is great if students are absent or missing notes, or to review. An alternative form of assessment.

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Benefits of the Writing Projects Develops habit of writing original, complete sentences. “If you can’t say it, you don’t know it.” Gets the writing practice frequent, consistent, and spaced throughout the year. Writing practice translates to better free response answers, since students get used to the required precision. An alternative form of assessment. The projects can be required assignments or used for extra credit options, or both. The topics can focus on specific student trouble areas. By-product of trying to teach them the writing skills is they learn the math they are working on. Makes for a great showcase or bulletin board, raising the profile of the AP Stat class.

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Modeling Writing and the Creation of Well-Written Sentences If teachers model the writing process when creating class notes, kids learn about sentence construction—better than by viewing already-scripted, slick PowerPoint bullets. Kids need to see you alter and revise a sentence to make the thought clearer. Invite students to offer clauses to improve the sentence. Most kids don’t have full sentences in their notes. “Real time” creation of full sentences allows them to focus and copy. Often, bulleted PowerPoint sentences are clicked on without enough time for students to digest and copy. Show best examples from previous years to “raise the bar.” Be a “naïve proofreader.”

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Technical Writing Sources Writing Math Research Papers R. Gerver Key Curriculum Press Search online for used books Write On! Math R. Gerver Global Learning or MathSoft (old publisher) Math Complete/ StudyWorks CD Has samples of completed Math Annotation Projects, and the notes they came from. You can demonstrate some technical writing points students can include in their projects.

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Students Learn to Use Equation Editor

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You Might Even Have to Refer to Some Parts of Speech! A write-up about instructional videos made for a reform school: “The students behaved since they were mesmerized by the DVDs. We could not believe they were so good.” How many times can you not tell what ‘it’ refers to in kids’ work??!!

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Excerpts from Sample Annotations Written By Students “Once you have finished constructing a 95% confidence interval, there is not a 95% “chance” that it captured the mean. It either did or it didn’t; the chance you captured the mean is 0% or 100%. The fact that you don’t know if you caught it doesn’t mean you have a “chance”, since the event already happened. But you can have a degree of confidence in your interval.”

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Excerpts from Sample Annotations Written By Students “If you do reject a null hypothesis, you could not have made a Type II error. A Type II error occurs when you do NOT reject a null hypothesis that is, in fact, false.” “When you describe a distribution of univariate data, comment on its shape, center and spread. When you describe a set of bivariate data, comment on its direction, form and strength.”

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Students’ Writing Tells Us When They Don’t Fully Understand “We don’t know if the population is normally distributed, but n = 200, which is greater than 15, so t is robust.” “The interval (73.5, 83.5) captured 95% of all possible sample means.”

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Bulletin Board Possibilities: Add statistics quotes found online!

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Creating Balloon Sentences Requires Knowledge and Expression of That Knowledge

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Critiques and revisions help improve the product. The best way to improve writing is to write, watch writing in action, and critique writing!

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WRITING PROJECTS GRADING SHEET: 1 – 5 in each category 1._____The mathematics is correct. 2._____The full-sentence explanations are correct. 3._____The topic/problem is addressed comprehensively and completely. 4._____All crucial points are addressed verbally. 5._____Color is used with discretion to improve the explanation. 6._____Statistical notation and terminology are used correctly. 7._____Captions for figures are descriptive and formatted correctly. 8._____Table headings are descriptive and formatted correctly. 9._____The physical layout of the project--text, diagrams, tables—is high quality. 10._____Appropriate and sufficient examples are given. 11._____Diagrams and/or tables are graduated where necessary. 12._____ Warnings and classic errors are addressed. 13._____The project does a clearer job of explaining the topic than the original notes do. 14. _____A draft was handed in for critiquing in advance of the due date. 15._____The depth and quality of the project are commensurate with the student’s ability.

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Suggestions Try Balloon Help Tutorials for assorted problems on one topic. Try Math Annotation Projects for one topic. Tweak, revise, and see if you want to use them on other topics. Questions? Contact Rob at

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