AMS Special Session: Developing Statistical Knowledge for Teaching with an emphasis on Equity Literacy

This afternoon, I stopped in at the AMS Special Session on Mathematics Courses Designed to Develop Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching High School. I managed to catch Andrew Ross, Stephanie Casey, and Melody Wilson’s talk “Developing Statistical Knowledge for Teaching with an emphasis on Equity Literacy”. They talked about designing a course for the MODULES(S2) project, which aims to improve the training of secondary-school teachers.

A revision of statistics curricula for teachers-in-training is due for a few reasons, Casey explained. First of all, statistics is a key topic–its importance in research and industry is growing fast even as teachers report feeling less prepared to teach statistics than other content areas. And more generally, teacher education is moving away from the traditional separation between content and pedagogy and toward more holistic practices.

One way to address these issues efficiently is by using real-world statistics problems that address equity in class. Ross presented an example scenario from class: the state of Pennsylvania came up with a formula for funding schools equitably, enabling data scientists to compare actual school funds to the formula’s recommendation. By analyzing things like the median income of students or the proportion of white students against their funding situation, pre-service teachers can experience for themselves the entwining of data with equity and justice.

In survey results at the end of the MODULES(S2) course, teachers-in-training reported feeling more equipped to practice statistics. They also indicated that, compared to the start of the course, they thought more about equity issues such as race and felt teachers had more of a role in student success. As one teacher-in-training reported: “Including topics about equity and social justice can engage and encourage students … they do have something to contribute to these ideas.”

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