Updated: May 9, 2020
What's going on everyone?
As Spring Break was getting closer, I wanted to be able to teach a fun lesson before leaving for a week. Two days before the lesson, my colleagues and I were talking about how our students were struggling with analyzing statistical evidence from graphs. Our students often try to interpret a graph without a proper understanding of the context from which the graph was made. So at the very last minute, I decided to create a lesson about how to put evidence in context using the game Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You can find the lesson here. The handouts in the lesson plan are slightly different than what I gave to my students because I made some changes.
The Aim of this lesson was "How do we use context in order to accurately extrapolate information from statistical evidence?" As you can see in the handout, the students made a graph based on the number of wins in Super Smash Bros. between a student and myself. Before starting, however, I set the handicap for myself at 300% which made it extraordinarily easy to kill me. We played four rounds and my student won three of them.
From here, I asked my students which player, based on the information in the graph, should be considered better. They almost unanimously decided that Player 2, the student, is because he won three games to my one. I asked this question because many of my students will often make incorrect assumptions based on numbers presented in a graph. The graph above does insinuate that Player 2 is better, but the graph fails to recognize the context of the fight where I had a 300% handicap placed against me.
We then discussed how the conditions before the fight caused the outcome we see in the graph. We do not really know who the better player is because we did not fight on an even playing field. This made it clear that they needed to research the context of a graph before attempting any analysis.
Finally, we went on to discuss the Voting Rights of 1965. There are many graphs on voter registration numbers which made it an easy to incorporate into this lesson. I started with a graph that shows voter registration numbers before and after the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and asked if the act eliminated racial disparities in voting. I asked this question because a student had previously assumed that is what the graph was telling us. I then provided a second graph that showed voter registration increasing among both white and black Americans. The original interpretation of the graph may have seemed correct at first, but upon further research it was clear that more information was needed before coming to a conclusion.
I have since changed the second page of this handout because I felt I deviated a little too far away from my original intent of the lesson. I wanted students to focus on applying context to a graph and I think using two separate graphs was a little complicated. So while the lesson did go very well, I simplified the handout in order to make it more accessible to all students in my classroom.
The concept of putting evidence in context can be taught without the use of a video game. I used Super Smash Bros. because so many of my students love that game in particular and I thought it would be a fun and effective way to teach those students the skill of putting evidence in context. And for the most part, it worked. There were a couple of students who needed to be reminded about the parameters of the fight because they were unfamiliar with the mechanics of the game. Overall, however, most of my students clearly understood that they cannot just make assumptions based on numbers presented in a graph. They now know that they need to check conditions that influenced those results.
Thanks for reading,