How to Use Gapminder to Teach Statistics (S.ID) in Algebra 1

Real-data Graphing with Gapminder (Updated)

If you have not seen GapMinder yet, it is a must from every math and history teacher!

I was introduced to this amazing graphing software at a conference, and I was so excited to play with it and use it in my classroom. The "how" of using it was a bit vague, however, and the craziness of getting back to my classroom after three days out distracted me from the goal of figuring it out.

Well, when the Common Core put statistics back into Algebra 1, it pushed me forward. I am so grateful. I want my students to understand numbers in the context of the larger world around them. This is the perfect tool!

What is GapMinder?

If you have never heard of it before, feel free to take a look at the video below. Please know that the great part of the software is the depth of the data. You can change the x and y-axis to reflect data on world health, environment, family size, or GDP, among others. You can change the countries to be shown by selecting them from the right or you can select them all. GapMinder truly allows a teacher to meet the needs of their students!

The Lesson Plan

I created a task for my students to complete while taking their first look at GapMinder for my Modeling Linear Data Unit. The program introduction helps them to understand the notation and symbolism while incorporating the mathematics of independent and dependent variables, creating a table from a graph, and understanding how to read a graph. The class time must be structured to be valuable as I am still in training mode and this was the perfect way to achieve discovery and structure in one step.

Thinking Ahead ...

I am excited to see what my students do with this software. While I was playing around with it, I changed the y-axis to the number of children and left the x-axis as GDP. It was amazing to see -- in numbers -- the history I thought I understood. I have so many Bosnian students that escaped the war in their country. To focus on Bosnia and see the turmoil the war caused in their country was extremely powerful. I can see the history teacher using this to track the main players in WWII. You can identify the major dates or even show them the graph and have them research the reasons for the discrepancy in the graph. All very powerful.

Common Core Standards

I am working on creating lessons using this software to help students understand box and whisker (S.ID.1), correlation coefficient (S.ID.8), central tendencies(S.ID.2), and line of best fit (S.ID.6). I can see the outliers (S.ID.3) being very powerful as well with this software. I am very excited about the possibilities.

How will you use GapMinder?

Please share how you think this software can be used in the classroom. I would love to hear from you! And be sure to pin it for future reference!

Teach statistics using This fantastic program will allow students to work with real data to understand statistics.


How to Use Gapminder to Teach Statistics (S.ID) in Algebra 1

4 Steps to Create Math Performance Tasks with a Quick and Easy Template

Finding math performance tasks for your classroom can be difficult.

And even when a performance task is found it does not match up with your needs.

One solution is to create your own. This template will save you time and effort.

Step 1: Get an Idea

This may be the most difficult part of the task or the most fun. Depends on how you look at the situation.

These questions will help you find your idea if you are stuck.

  • What do you want students to be able to do?
  • What interests your students?
  • What skill do you need to see accomplished?
  • Do your students find some types of tasks to be more meaningful?
For example, I noticed today that my students found the domino example for π day intriguing. In the middle of eating pie, they stopped to watch the video. My students were asking some very detailed questions about the dominoes; how many are there, how long did it take to set that up, how long did it take to fall?
If you are still stuck feel free to take a look at my list of sample assessments or view the performance task I created for F.BF.1 or Correlation vs. Causation.

Step 2: Clarify the Performance Task

Within the template, you will find prompts ensuring your task is complete.
Choose a product for your students. Then move on to defining the purpose of the product. Define the audience for your students and create clear expectations.
Take a minute and check off the Mathematical Practices your task will include.
Remember to think through the goals for your students. What do you want them to know?

Step 3: Prepare for Success

Prerequisite Skills

Being realistic about what your students know and need to know is essential. Listing out the skills needed and ensuring that they have been covered before the assessment is essential.

Too often, when teachers have not honestly taken a look at what is needed to complete the task, all of their hard work ends up down the sink.

Do they need research skills, don't assume they can "Google it." Do they need to recall a skill from earlier grades, don't assume they will recall it?

Taking an honest look ahead of time and ensuring the items have been taught or remediated will give you and your students the best chance of success.

Quality Questions

Think through your task.
What questions will you ask students to assess their knowledge of the content?
What questions can you ask struggling students to help them find their way?
Having these questions ready ahead of time will ensure you get the information you need and move students along.

Step 4: Assess your Task

Within the template, there is a self-check list. Use it to assess your task. Reading through it may give you ideas on how you might extend a lesson or how it can be changed to make it even better.

Remember, teaching is never done, it can always be better. Don't be so hard on yourself that you never finish.

For a list of tools for inserting math symbols into your tasks, reference this blog post.

Please check out the free template.

I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know if there is something I missed. I would love to get your input!


4 Steps to Create Math Performance Tasks with a Quick and Easy Template


How to Build Confidence in Math Class Using the 70/30 Rule

Here's the big misconception.70 30 rule

  • "Kids are lazy."
  • "They just won't try."
  • "Student's don't care."

But what if we could teach in a way that reduces student apathy?

The 70/30 Rule

One of the best ideas for improving student confidence is the 70/30 rule. The big idea is to allow kids 70% of the time to feel confident so that you can push them forward and stretch their knowledge 30% of the time. This idea was from Allan Bellman during his presentation on Classroom Level Assessments that Determine and Meet Student Needs at the NCTM conference in Chicago.

This may be the biggest tool that will help us achieve the Common Core Curriculum within our classrooms. It is always so easy to shift one way or the other.

We don't want the content to come so easy that we will never meet the standards or so hard that students quit trying. (And we will never meet the standards.)

Same skill, different problems

The other big idea of Allan's is that it is OK to give kids different problems to meet their needs within a class period. I love this idea and have been coming up with some ideas to implement this in my classroom.

Layering your lessons

Students, especially in math, are often insecure. They need to feel that they can achieve. Don't we all? One of our biggest challenges as math teachers is creating a sense of confidence in our students.

This is something I take great pride in and always have a goal in my classroom. But the craziness can keep all of us from achieving this goal. We must stay focused because the cost is too high.

Algebra 1 Common Core Skills Check List

The Common Core Standards can be difficult to interpret. The question asked by teachers is, what does the standard mean? Or, so what exactly am I supposed to teach? The best tools that I've created for my classroom was a skills list. The process of building the skills list took me through every standard required for Algebra 1. It was a bit overwhelming, but I am so happy with how it turned out!

I went week by week and thought about what did my students need to understand and be able to do by the end of every week.

I didn't complicate things with questions like can they collaborate and can they problem solve and can they etc. All of those 21st-century skills we've had drilled into our heads for so long. While they are critical, this is not the place.

I created a simple list of the skills I wanted my students to be able to do by the end of each week using the lessons incorporating all of those very important things.

This skills list was modified and given to my students. At the end of each week, I gave the assessments that I shared with you in the bonus pack to address these skills.

Every Friday the kids took a quiz. On Monday they got those quizzes back. And there was no grade at the top. Yes, there were panic attacks for a while.

We take a moment and discuss the results. On each problem was a number one through four. A one means they tried something. If they didn't try something they earned a zero and a four means mastered. A three was close but not perfect, and a two meant that they were on their way to understanding it, but they didn't get it yet.

This simple rubric is posted on my wall. It's one of the main bulletin board that we go out back to often.

The students then record the results on their skill sheet. There's a separate skill sheet for the students it's numbered one through five at the top, and every time they try the assessment for that skill they put their score into the box.

You can see a sample of this process below.

FREE Common Core Algebra Checklist  Every Friday they get a chance to redo the needed skills and do the new skills we worked on that week.

You will see the unit one assessment's weekly assessments that some of the skills repeat, and if you keep going into unit two, you'll see that all the skills will repeat. This is because they are formative assessments we want the students to have a chance to improve and understand what they do and do not know before the unit test.

Once the students earn a four twice in a row, they no longer need to do that skill. But I refuse to keep track of that for them.

They absolutely must know what they need to work on to be successful.

This did take some training in the beginning, but boy did it pay off!

The biggest surprise I got by using this system is that the parents loved it. Parents were able to look at that skill sheet and know exactly what their child did or did not understand the content.

So many parents hear Common Core and panic that they will not be able to help their child. This skills list show them exactly what their child will need to learn to be successful. I also went over where they could find some resources to help their student and how to find those resources online at an open house. (A little bit of work up front saved me hours later!)

Below is a link where you can download the skills list. I hope you find them as useful to your students as I have found them with mine. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I love hearing from you!


Algebra 1 Semester 1 & 2 Common Core Skills Check List