**REPORT ON AN INFORMAL MEETING OF AP STATISTICS TEACHERS at **THE NCTM NATIONAL CONVENTION, SAN DIEGO, 4/26/96
(Note: This document will also be forward directly to all participants of the meeting as soon as the email/mailing list is complete.)
ORIGIN OF MEETING:
Noting that there were no scheduled sessions on AP Statistics at the NCTM National Convention, Joe Ward (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Al Coons (email@example.com) formed a group of 20 interested teachers through the AP Statistics Listserv (firstname.lastname@example.org). Penni Zito, of Freeman, provided a room, appetizers, and flyers advertising the meeting. Thanks Penni.
Approximate 40 people attended the actual meeting. If we had had the time and resources we probably could have easily attracted 40 more. The great majority who did attend were high school teachers. There were also a few college teachers, four publishing company representatives, one software representative, and one calculator company representative.
What follows is an attempt at fairly describing the most important points of the 90 minute group discussion:
EXPECTED POPULATION OF AP STATISTICS COURSE:
The percent of teachers expecting their AP Statistics course to be MOSTLY populated by students with the following characteristics was:
25% - Their school's most able mathematicians - AP Calculus students. 25% - Students who are reasonable good at Algebra II but not AP Calculus bound. 50% - A balanced mixture of the two above categories.
Discussion: We felt that AP Statistics students need a certain mathematical maturity and an ability to deal with quantitative concepts. However, success in the course should not depend on a student's ability to work at the highest levels of mathematics. There was some concern that students who were not at the highest ability level would be overshadowed by the strongest students, but I sensed that many teachers felt that this would not be a problem due to the conceptual nature of the course. In fact, some teachers felt that students who are reasonable good but not AP Calculus bound who enrolled in AP Statistics might due very well because of their excitement about the material and ability in group settings.
All teachers felt that they would teach within the standards set out by the College Board. That is to say that teachers expect extensive use of projects, gathering and massaging of real-world data, and group work. However, few teachers expect to have more than 5 major (1 to 2 week) projects during the course.
All but one teacher expects AP Statistics to be a full-year course.
33% expect to use calculators only (no computers). 67% expect to use calculators and computers.
All teachers who expect to use computers plan to use MINITAB.
Discussion: There was a discussion concerning whether calculators without computers would be sufficient. This was motivated not so much by pedagogy, but by the reality that some teachers will not have computers available for their students. The consensus was that while there are significant reasons for having computers available (memory size, storage of data, extra statistical and graphing routines), students should be able to find success on the AP without computers and by reading printed output from computers as found in many texts)
One teacher reported that it was announced at a recent meeting that all computer output on the AP would be MINITAB!
There was a discussion about trying to read between the lines concerning the use of computers in the AP Statistics course description. Apparently, the next release of the description (due out in May?) de-emphasizes the necessity of computers in preparing for the AP. Participants wondered if this was a reaction to the reality of lack of computers in many schools, a reaction to the TI-83's strong statistical abilities, or a fundamental change in the committee's view of the place of computers in statistics.
Here I will have to editorialize a bit more - I will try to be fair.
A great number of teachers who have been teaching statistics courses feel very strongly about Moore and McCabe. In fact, no one questions that it is well written. A large number of teachers have already decided to use this text.
On the other hand, Moore and McCabe looks very dry and uninviting to other teachers - particular those who have not been using it and are looking at many of the books which are just coming on the market. However, it is not yet clear which, if any, of these new texts are well enough written, cover the AP syllabus, have sufficient supporting material, and are appropriately paced.
There are two disjoint camps in this debate (we managed to keep it friendly!). One camp feels that teachers, real-world data, and exercises can convey the excitement of statistics. Therefore, since M&M is so well written, it is the logical book to use. On the other hand, there is a camp that thinks that even given exciting teaching, data, and exercises, the nature of the book says a great deal about what statistics is.
Of course, there is no correct answer here. As Joe Ward pointed out, "The most important thing is that teachers are comfortable with their own choice of material."
RESOURCES: COLLABORATIVE WORK, DATA SETS, INTERNET
There is a very active of group of teachers in Chicago working together to find resources, formulate example questions, etc. There is also an active group in San Antonio. Hopefully, all groups will share what they have found. It would be great if we had a Home Page with links to resources. We ran out of time to explore this topic fully.
SOME FRUSTRATIONS and A CALL FOR HELP:
I think we all recognize the AP Statistics Committee's hard work (I THINK THEY HAVE DONE A GREAT JOB) and our need to attend as many seminars, talks, and summer programs as possible. At the same time, here are some points which need clarification:
- Why, at a meeting of 20,000 mathematics teachers, were there no scheduled meetings about AP Statistics (and little on AP Calculus or Computer)?
- Why, for example, has at least one regional College Board Office been unaware of the AP listserv until one of us called a few weeks ago?
- If true, why does the next copy of the course description still contain a recommend text which is out of print?
- If true, why does the next copy of the course description not recommend at least some of the recently published texts which may fit the published style of AP Statistics? Perhaps none of these are adequate. Perhaps they have not been reviewed yet.
- Has it been determined that computer output will be from MINITAB?
- We need many more example questions in order to be able to determine the depth and pace of our courses. Will they be available?
- Where does the committee stand on the use of computers?
- One participant has heard that a good deal of additional information will be out in the fall. If true, this is too late for many of us. Hopefully information can at least be shared through electronic media sooner.
Perhaps what was most important about this meeting was that by sharing ideas we found out that we are already on the right track. Even given individual differences in style and resources, it was clear to me that we all have a reasonable sense of the expectations of the AP. Anyone who makes the choice to take on a new AP in its first year must be a dedicated and interested teacher. We will all get to May '97 by some sensible route. What we need most is as much up-to-date information as possible.
My apologies in advance if I have misrepresented individual or collective opinions from the meeting or the good work of the AP Committee or the College Board. If so, I hope you will set the record straight.
Albert Coons, Ph.D. Chair, Instructional Technology Committee Mathematics Department Buckingham Browne & Nichols School Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 547-6100