Sometimes the best conversations in math class happen by accident, but they are cultivated by nurturing a classroom culture of mutual respect and exploration of ideas.
In my non-AP Statistics class, I start class by giving them a graph or infographic and then I allow them to notice and wonder about what they see. Here’s what we did the first day of class to combat imposters masquerading as reputable news sites: https://docs.google.com/a/isd15.org/presentation/d/1w0rno08VZxNI_6y7TkOdy9_n39yeUyQ2EcC7q5kDHNw/edit?usp=drivesdk
Today, I prefaced the activity by reminding them of the agreed upon norms and letting them know that we would be talking about guns. (Some background knowledge on this class: there is a wide variety of abilities and all grade levels are represented in this class. The makeup of the students doesn’t make addressing a touchy subject easier or harder, but the variety of abilities and ages does make the class unique compared to most traditional math courses.)
Here are the images we examined:
I usually have the students share their favorite noticing and favorite wondering with their team, and then as a group, they decide which one they want to share with the class. I’m always delighted to see the question “is this data reliable” or “what is the source of the data?” Given recent events [i.e. fake news], these types of questions are vital.
Today, however, that question, what is the source of the data, took an unexpected (but important) turn. None of the students (nor I) had heard of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. So we used the Googles and were quickly brought to their website. We evaluated their “dot org” status, admired their clean, organized website, and read through their mission statement. It all seemed legit. I noticed they had a Board of Governors. And so I said, “Picture in your head what this board of governors looks like.” (I recommend you do the same.)
What ensued was a beautiful discussion about the people who are protected by the second amendment whose faces are not represented by this board of governors and the message that sends to people of color (and women). We as educators (and especially as math teachers) can’t shy away from these difficult conversations. They can happen with compassion and respect for different points of view while still addressing inequities in society if the students see each other as humans first. Be brave, we’ve got a world to change.