Friday, August 1, 2008

HIV in America -- Statistics

Earlier this summer, I took a course called "Teaching Social Justice in the Secondary Classroom" (or some variation of that), and as part of the class, I had to create a curriculum project that incorporates some aspect of social justice. Math teachers always get a little screwed in classes like these -- English/History and even Science teachers might find this project difficult only because there are so many ways that they can apply social justice in the classroom. Whereas math teachers -- well, it can be tough -- we have to be extra creative. And if I was still teaching just geometry, I would probably be in a bit of trouble.

And it's not about just completing the project to get the grade. In fact, my favorite professor told us that if we weren't going to actually use the project, then he would rather we just didn't pass in anything at all. Actually, I could write an entire blog post about how well this professor inspired us to do our best work.

I came up with a project where my AP Stats students will read an article about HIV in America from, use the Internet to research HIV statistics, and then create "public service announcement" posters which include tables, graphs, pie charts, etc. to describe the information that they learn -- all to be posted in the common areas of the school. The project lets the students choose the most appropriate graphical displays for the data that they find most interesting, and lets them (obviously) learn about the HIV statistics in American, specifically among African Americans.

In theory, I am really excited about this project -- I think it will spark some really interesting discussions and the students will gain valuable skills in representing data.

But I'm also worried that a lot of my students have enough negativity pushed on them everyday, and that this might just be depressing -- that maybe we should look at the positive. Similarly, I think that looking at Baltimore crime statistics may be interesting and relevant, but maybe school should be a "safe space" away from all that. I'm torn.

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