Regional Reflection – Releasing my Grip

As humans, our complex brains are able to create such detailed visions of the future.  We build things up (or down) in our minds that reality can’t possibly compete with.  Until we let go of what we believe should happen, we are unable to fully experience the beauty of what actually is.

Proposals for the NCTM Regional Conference here in Minneapolis were due in September of 2014.  This means I have had over a year to continue to wind the anxiety yarn into one giant ball of stress.  But sweet relief occurred when I released my iron grip on my expectations and began to appreciate the phenomenal power of educators coming together.

First off, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, NCTM, for  your support of the MathTwitterBlogosphere at the NCTM conferences. I spent much of my time at the #MTBOS booth in the exhibit hall.  Sharing this wonderful, supportive, organic community with other math educators has been as fulfilling as it has been fun.

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East Coast meets Minnesota Nice

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You guys have something called the “Trap Team?”

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Woman: You didn’t say there would be math. Christopher: Actually, I said there would be nothing BUT math.

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When Nicole Bridge gets fired up, the magic happens.

When asking people in the Exhibit Hall “are you on Twitter?” the most common response was “yes, but I don’t tweet.  Think of the student in your class that thinks very deeply, submits very thoughtful work,but doesn’t raise his/her hand in class to volunteer his/her thinking.  I’d hope that most teachers would agree that these students are still valuable members of the classroom community.  It works the same with the online edu-community.  Plus, I’d venture to guess that many people who actively tweet with other math educators started by diving down the rabbit hole of math blogs.

Max Ray-Riek led a panel where we discussed this problem and blog post of mine.  Next week we venture into rational functions in college algebra and I anticipate good times to be had once again.

An hour later, Carl Oliver and I spoke on statistics, social justice, and how to have safe, productive conversations with students around the issue of race and equity. Here is the link to the slides.  The discussion centered around these data sets:

Using Local Data to Teach Statistics

Using Local Data to Teach Statistics (1)

I really enjoyed giving our presentation and a lot of great discussion ensued.  But ultimately, I’m thankful to the MathTwitterBlogosphere for being the catalyst of the great discussion we get to take part in, day in and day out.  I had never met Carl Oliver in person before Wednesday.  But the powerful connections we (all of us) have made with one another, make it possible for an algebra teacher in New York and a stats teacher in Minnesota to get together and share their passions with fellow educators. It allowed a teacher in Massachusetts to spread the fire she started in Boston on to Atlantic City, Minneapolis, and Nashville.  And that fire is continually kindled as we welcome, share, engage, and support over and over and over again.  Thank you, #MTBoS for being the genuine, authentic community that has naturally produced so much awesome for so many teachers.

Chipotle for Everyone

I’m hard pressed anymore to find a classroom of high school kids who don’t absolutely adore Chipotle’s menu options.  They all have a favorite, and they own it as THEIR burrito.  (I like Chipotle in particular because as a vegan, I can get a delicious meal, as can any non-vegan meal companion.)

I came across this article from Vox claiming Chipotle’s menu calorie disclosures were inaccurate.  I’m going to give Chipotle the benefit of the doubt here because their website contains a very detailed nutrition calculator which allows you to determine the number of calories for your  customized burrito.

The article references a study from the Journal of Public Health Nutrition which reviews a study in which customers are asked to estimate the calorie content of their meal. Some groups were given no information at all.  Some groups were given a range of calories in which burritos in general fell.  Last, additional groups were given example burritos containing the low and high values in the calorie spread.

I had a randomly selected student create a burrito.  Each class was obviously something different which made it kind of fun.

First, I had them estimate the number of calories in the chosen student’s burrito.

Second, I gave them the calorie range of 410-1185 claimed in which Chipotle’s burritos are claimed to land.  I had them adjust their estimate and give reasoning for their adjustment based on the additional information.

I then showed them the calorie range with an example from the Journal article’s study:

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Third, I wanted them to use the examples above to adjust their estimate once more.

We then talked about how the range of our estimates changed and why.  We also had a discussion about ‘averaging bias’ and how healthy ingredients make us assume that certain food are lower in calories than they actually are.

We were able to discuss the surveying methods done for the study and the demographics of participants, which led to a nice discussion about sampling.  (Evidently high school 9th graders find it odd and quite a bit creepy that participants in the survey were given a “flavored ice pop” in exchange for 5 minutes of their time.)

As long as I had their attention with food, I asked them to estimate whether the student’s burrito had more or less calories than my vegan burrito.  I’ll let you decide:

Student’s Burrito:  chicken, white rice, pinto beans, tomato salsa, cheese, and lettuce

My Burrito:  brown rice, fajita vegetables, black beans, tomato salsa, corn salsa, guacamole, and lettuce.