Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Are YOU confident?

The one year I had to teach AP Statistics, I stood up, took command, and taught the heck out of that course (although some students did not LEARN the heck out of the course. In fact, many were often heard uttering the phrase, "What the heck?")

Anyway, although I feel I adequately prepared the students for the AP stat exam, if not for a career as an actuary, I never really enjoyed teaching it. It wasn't because it required copious amounts of work on my part (I DID have to relearn it, and there were always many, many, many tables and scatter plots and graphs, etc. to produce for the overhead), but because I didn't like the actual math involved. In other words, I DON'T LIKE STATISTICS!!!

There, I said it. I feel better. I can, however, appreciate how Statistics allows us to make predictions and to make sense of an unpredictable world, but therein lies my distaste for it. I like certainty. I like predictability. I like to be in total control of my variables. With statistics, one can never be 100% certain, only 98% confident that you are 80% right. OOOOOOOO, I'm wincing as I typ whitch is y my tipe ing got badd so sudenlee!

Another thing about statistics that I did not like is that there was not enough calculating or computing (at least at the high school level.) It was more of a verbal class where there were discussions, and opinions could differ. Finding numerical values required either the use of a calculator, which automated everything, or merely plugging into a cute little formula to get an answer. The value of statisticians is then to interpret this number. In teaching calculus, there is plenty of opportunity for interpreting results, but I savor the tedious minutia involved in multi-stepped problems with pages and pages of logically equivalent mathematical steps to arrive at the answer. I love the symbolic manipulation of symbols and numbers because it keeps my mind supple and agile. The algebraic process is as fun as, if not more fun than, arriving at the final product.

Now don't think that I do not challenge the verbal right side of my brain enough. In fact, I love History and English, and I have always thought I might be fortunate some day to teach some classes, but my training in mathematics has always been structured, rigorous, and predictable, and Statistics is in direct conflict with my upbringing. But given the chance to teach it again, I would embrace the opportunity to do it again with fresh eyes and a renewed enthusiasm. I mean, I didn't like coffee when I first tried it, but I eventually acquired a taste for it, a taste which I now cannot live without. Perhaps it is so with statistics.

For now, I am grateful that our current statistics teacher, Mrs. Caradec, absolutely LOVES the class. The students deserve a teacher who is both qualified, energetic, and who doesn't have to feign interest, which is why my role as calculus teacher is safe in the future--the stat teacher likes calculus as much as I like statistics--I'm 98% confident that that statement is 95% correct . . . . I think!

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Korpi -

(I went through the whole "make a Google account" process just to say this, so...well, that really doesn't mean much.)

I'm currently taking statistics, and I wish I had taken it in high school. If it wasn't for the appeal of having you as a teacher for two years in a row, I would have been in Caradec's class, and the lunch crew would have never developed. So, in a way, I'm also glad I didn't. A bittersweet feeling, you could say. My current Stat teacher also LOVES the subject, but she's a bit quieter and dainty-er than Mrs. Caradec.

After doing well in your class, it makes me frustrated that a "chi-square" test is a difficult concept to grasp. There are different types of tables, graphs, variabes, blah, blah, blah...I just don't care. I've never really said that about my schoolwork, but I have a take-home test that should be fairly simple but has somehow turned into a huge task. Wish me luck! I DO need it.