- Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’ve just spent the weekend participating in the Creating Balance in an Unjust World conference, which took place at Mission High School in San Francisco. The focus of this annual conference—to explore the connections between math education and social justice—is not only the intersection of two realms of my life, but it coincided conveniently (though, I’m guessing, not coincidentally) with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
As a testament to how engaging the conference was, I participated in workshops while one of the most exciting NFL games of the year was being played at the south end of town. In disbelief, another teacher and I caught the last couple of lead changes at the end of the 49ers–Saints game on her friend’s iPhone as the panel discussion ended. Amazing game! But I digress…
Just about every workshop I attended involved examples of teachers engaging their students by bringing in real-world data that was relevant to their students. One recurring theme that emerged from these workshops was empowering students by giving them control of their own explorations, and yet I did not see any use of dynamic data software, such as Fathom or TinkerPlots, during the conference, which I think is a shame.
For any teacher who wants to incorporate a social justice focus into their mathematics course, I highly recommend downloading (for free) and trying out our dynamic data software so you can get a sense of the visual and visceral power of working with real data in an interactive, dynamic environment. For those of you who have experience with Sketchpad, think of a similar dynamic environment, but rather than geometric and algebraic objects, there are data sets and their various representations. In each workshop, I kept wanting to see the data in a dynamic scatter plot—like those our software provide—to quickly test other representations and correlations of the same data. To get a sense of how the software works, see this video (or one of the other TinkerPlots movies).
Turns out that the teacher who followed the end of the 49er game with me used to teach at the same school as Tim Erickson, one of the principal developers of our high school activities that use Fathom to develop students’ understanding of data distributions and statistics. While I believe we have already featured this video of Tim before in this blog, it completely speaks to the idea of using data analysis to create balance in an unjust world.
So I dedicate this video to all the motivated, talented, and thoughtful young teachers who are working hard to incorporate projects involving real-world data into their classrooms. Keep up the tough work of teaching your students “to think intensively and to think critically.” Make sure to follow Tim’s Ignite presentation to the end, as he does a beautiful job of building up the case for the importance of using real data for social justice.