“Look around at your groups guys, all of these people are going to work with you to get your work done, so make sure you get them to come!”

That was the last thing significant thing I said to my “Understanding Data” class on Wednesday before my typical end-of-class chatter (i.e.”put each folder in the box, and your assignment in your bags bag and trash in the trash can etc.). As I walked back to the room I thought to myself “Great Scott! I may just have hit on a secret attendance improving strategy!” As a transfer school full of kids who most often have a checkered history with school attendance, we are constantly looking for ways to keep kids from back sliding and having enough attendance in classes to avoid it feeling like a drop-in session. “If kids are in groups,” I thought to myself, “and accountable to their groups, then they may be motivated to come to school!”

When today’s class started and I’m looking at a class with roughly half of the students that I had the last class. Every group was missing at least one member, a couple groups only had one member! Last class there 28 kids There were only 2 groups of four, the one that begged me to let them have a fifth member, and the group students who weren’t here in the last class and had no idea what was going on. It was a little sad, but after trying to arrange the groups into mostly pairs and threes, and postponing some of the task for Monday, it was still pretty nice to have the kids work in groups. Once groups finished work they worked on some reflection writing.

Students were brainstorming different methods of determining whether something is an outlier using sets of data that I prepared. The group part of the task would have been to compile all of everyone’s data so that they could look at which of their so-called outliers really lie outside of everyone’s data, and which ones actually look normal when placed around the larger set of data. Instead, I asked the smaller groups to work on clearly defining a mathematical test that they could all agree on which would show why the outliers are outliers. Some groups said “If it’s more than 1000 higher than any other number” or “twice as much as the other numbers.” I think this could lead to an interesting conversation about why we need the Mean and the Standard Deviation, as well as the Median and the IQR. We will soon talk sample size and the law of large numbers, and having these posters around the room will be good references for putting large groups of data and reducing error.

So, as sad as it was to only see a fraction of the students I was expecting in my class, it should not affect the momentum of class too much. The kids who missed will get an email asking them to essentially do the same task on their own, and we can do a nice gallery walk at the start of Monday’s class about everyone’s ideas. When we have them work on further group work, it will be good to have this experience to look back on. Maybe next time I’ll require them to exchange emails or whatever else in order to stay in touch with their group. We can still make this experiment work!