Cross-Curricular Teaching of Data and Probability


We here at Key really love our TinkerPlots software. And we’re always talking about the power of using it cross-curricularly—using data to enhance understanding of, say, science or social science topics, as well as using these contexts to motivate the exploration of data analysis and math. TinkerPlots comes with dozens of data sets relevant in a variety of contexts, and we add more on our website. But this blog post we just came across takes it to an impressive level.

In this blog, an Australian educator discusses a series of lessons and simulations that cover both the history topic of world exploration and the math topic of understanding that prior events can affect the likelihood of subsequent events. He covers geography, Dutch trading, colonies, and the dangers of seafaring. He simulates the impact of weather on the chance of a successful journey, and the fact that weather not only impacts success or failure, but travel speed, chance of getting scurvy, and so on—dependent events. He has a series of four videos that introduce the topic and show how to use TinkerPlots to do the simulations.

Imagine the power of engaging with a student who’s really interested in history, for example, and incidentally allowing them to use a data analysis tool to model and understand the topic more fully. A student who may not be particularly impressed with math may suddenly see the value of it in studying what they DO care about. And isn’t that part of the beauty and value of math?

Word cloud of responses to “I love math because…”

We recently asked fans at our Facebook page what they love about math. Responses were along the lines of, “It provides concise and precise statements of how things work, revealing the beauty of the natural world to all,” “it makes so much sense,” and “I can see it everywhere.” We think a lesson like the one proposed by this teacher can help students love math too.


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Posts from the McGraw-Hill Education Social Media & Content team.




    Thanks for the feedback on the Tinkerplots activity.

    I am discovering some really interesting applications for the application. Most recently, I used spinners on an Smartboard to drive a whole of class creative writing game. Specifically, the activity was part of a sequence that introduced figurative language in poetry to Year 5 students. There were three spinners – one loaded with a range of abstract concepts (such as ‘happy’, ‘teachers’, ‘angry’, ‘weather’ etc), the second was loaded with adjectives (‘black’, ‘large’, ‘rough’ etc) and the third was a dichotomous spinner with ‘metaphor’ and ‘simile’. The spinners were spun, and then students, working in teams of three, had 1 minute to write the most engaging metaphor or simile.

    A visiting pair of Year 7 students then awarded points to each of the teams, based on the quality of the figurative speech.

    The use of Tinkerplots made the whole atmosphere a little like a TV gameshow and the kids pleaded for me to update the spinners, and have some more rounds of the game.

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