I’m excited about the choice my school’s leadership has made for our Interim Assessments this year. In the past, these assessments have been corporate-produced multiple choice tests that may or may not have aligned to what’s actually being taught when, and their results were not often seen and rarely useful.
This year, instead, we’re doing a series of five argumentative writing assignments in every core subject area, including math. We teachers have the opportunity (or task, depending on your frame of mind) to write these assignments for our current classes, and we have common planning time to discuss the assignments and the student work they elicit.
The mathematical context of the assessments I’m writing is a semester-long study of statistics with my first-semester Algebra 2 students. My first assignment in this series had students comparing the scoring stats of three fictional basketball players, then arguing for which one they would want to sign to the New York Knicks. For this one, I’ve decided to give them economic data for three countries and to ask them which they’d choose for relocation.
It can be difficult, but if I make time for it, it’s really teaching work of my favorite kind to write a new assignment. It’s a creative endeavor, it’s a chance to learn a little something new about the world, to surf the web and file ideas away for later, just to play with ideas. I took these notes on my process last night, and paste them here just for the fun of it.
Planning Steps, 11/21/11
- Open a Sapporo Reserve and put OK Computer on the headphones, after noting to a student earlier today that although Exit Music seems like a pretty little song, it’s extremely dark and angry about the status quo.
- Look at list of countries by income equality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality) – and note that Japan has the lowest Rich/Poor ratios – for both 10%’s and 20%’s – of all countries on this wikipedia page. (A list of 34 highly suspect – to use a subjective term – countries do not list this ratio.)
- Look at a list of world populations and see that Japan, with about 128 million people, ranks behind Brazil (191 million), Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia and Bangladesh, and ahead of Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Germany (82 million).
- Open a blank spreadsheet and consider the stats that might be interesting here. I only need three countries on this assignment, but let’s make a list of all 11 to get started.
- Record populations from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population, and add Egypt to the list because it’s right there with Ethiopia and Germany, and this seems like an interesting trio.
- Record R/P Ratios for these 12 countries in the next two columns.
- After wondering what to do next, see where wiki links take me. Specifically:
- From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality
- to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_distribution_of_wealth
- to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purchasing_power_parity
- to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mac_Index
- to http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/big-mac-index/id478585370?mt=8
- to a search for “Big Mac Index”
- which brings me to http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/07/big-mac-index, which is interesting, and now makes me better want to understand PPP (see the third bulleted link, immediately above)
- Decide to record July 2011 Big Mac prices, in converted USD for each of my 12 countries. See that it’s unavailable for Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Vietnam.
- One such idea, that I’m very excited to definitely use next week, is writing a linear regression for Big Mac Prices vs. GDP/person, as shown in the Economist piece.
- By the way: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=United+States&city=New+York%2C+NY
What got made:
- Background Spreadsheet – plenty more could have been added here, but here’s what I started
- Interim 1 Assignment Page – the front of the handout students will get, describing the assignment
- Interim 1 Data for Students – the back of the handout, which is the data they’ll use here
What didn’t, yet:
- A rubric