It Just Doesn’t Add Up

It’s funny how as we go about our lives, we can sometimes wander around blissfully ignorant of the amount of bad mathematics that is used in society.

Snap 2012-07-26 at 16.01.13Snap 2012-07-26 at 15.48.29

Images like this are great lesson starters. Pose the question, “What’s wrong with this picture?” and let the discussion begin. (Visit the Bad Maths Flickr Group for more examples. Another slightly different example is Dan Meyer’s 101questions.)

Regularly you will hear things like, ”Up to 25% or more” or see misconceptions accepted by those who don’t know any better ie. imagine a fictitous company that draws 5% sales from Australia in 2010 and 10% sales from Australia in 2011. This does not equate to a 5% increase in sales (like many believe) – it equates to a 100% increase in sales, as the amount of sales in total has doubled from the previous year.

The one that always gets me is the statistical insignificance of the data that most schools use to make decisions. Student Opinion Survey’s, Parent & Staff Opinion Surveys, Annual Implementation Plans where schools look for a 4.765% gain in student attendance from one year to the next. OnDemand testing, NAPLAN, class tests, SAC’s, work requirements, exams, practice exams, performance reviews… This all amounts to naught if you don’t have the right culture in place. Put the bad use of data aside and to drive change follow these 5 simple strategies:

1) Establish a culture of passion

2) Get your ‘curriculum’ right (And no, a teacher-led textbook approach is not right…) 

3) Provide rationale for change and always include teacher/student input

4) Understand what improvement actually looks like (Hint: it’s not a number…)

5) Provide time, support & assistance

Its been written about countless times before, but it’s that simple. Using data (correctly or incorrectly) doesn’t equate to improvements – what the data can show is that you have improved.

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