It started when I decided to take a topic and teach it out of context. Expected value is usually taught as part of the carnival project, but it’s also the thing that kids understand the least. This year I thought that teaching it outside of that project might make it easier.
Teaching it separate from the larger context, is dangerous because it’s always clear if the kids will transfer the ideas to between the two contexts. However, because the context uses expected value in a really structured way, t’s real easy for kids to only see it as a set of procedures. This time I figured I could avoid this if I came up with a new, amazing context!
Deal or No Deal immediately pops in to my head. Through understanding how to win the game, kids could understand expected value! So I plan it. I make a power point, I find a deal or no deal game online, (then I find another game online that isn’t blocked by the school filter) and I get ready to teach.
I get up in front of class and suddenly the game starts expanding. The two minute explanation of the rules becomes five minutes of a really enthusiastic student describing her favorite episode. The five minute example game which should show how to make decisions using expected value turns into 10 minutes of me explaining to everyone that “I’d just keep playing, ’cause, ‘why not?'” isn’t the best strategy.
All of a sudden, 45 minutes fly by and I realize the awesome lesson that I envisioned turned into almost a whole period of my voice. Perhaps I should have been more cognizant of what students would need to be doing for this topic to be explored, instead of trying to squeeze in all the “flash”. Instead I tried to squeeze a whole separate exploration with a big meaty context inside of one the kids were already invested in. We’ll see on Monday if we can get back on track.