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MWM Makes a Difference for Small-Town Teachers

1 November 2016 55 views No Comment

Lisbon is a quaint town in eastern Iowa that is little more than two miles from Mount Vernon, home of Cornell College. Lisbon is also home to Ann Cannon and her family. Ann is the department chair and only statistician in the department of mathematics and statistics at Cornell College.

Ann Cannon

Ann Cannon recruited five teachers from her local school district to attend Meeting Within a Meeting at JSM 2016.

The Lisbon school district is just as small as the town, with graduating classes that average around 40 students and grades K–12 being housed in the same building.

“Because my oldest son graduated last year and my youngest is now in 10th grade, I have known many of the teachers in the district for many years,” says Ann.

Understandably, Ann has a vested interest in statistics education. She is a co-author of Stat2: Building Models for a World of Data and has been involved with the development and accuracy of many introductory statistics books at both the high-school and college levels.

“I have also been very involved in the AP Statistics program, having worked as a reader, a table leader, a question leader, and—for the last two years—the assistant chief reader.”

As a parent, a current school board member, and a statistics educator, Ann has a unique perspective of how statistics is being taught in school.

“One of the positive aspects of the Common Core curriculum is its focus on data and data analysis. However, many of our teachers do not have much training in statistics. They are being asked to teach information they have not been exposed to,” says Ann.

As is the case in small communities like Lisbon, teachers can be isolated from resources that can help them in the classroom. However, Ann is an active ASA member who is involved in many areas of the organization and familiar with Meeting Within a Meeting (MWM), which is offered every year at the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM).

“Because of these issues facing our teachers, MWM is a necessary program,” says Ann. “I’ve known about MWM since it was started and have always thought that it is a good resource for K–12 teachers. And now, with the Common Core including more and more statistics in lots of areas besides math, I think MWM is even more important.”

MWM has traditionally been a program offered only at JSM. This puts a limit on who is able to attend, usually only educators in the surrounding areas.

“I recognized that this was the only year that MWM would be offered close enough for the teachers in my area to drive to easily. Since the school district where I live is very small and not very wealthy, I figured that easy travel to the meeting was important.”

After suggesting MWM to the school principal as something the teachers may be interested in, Ann was pleasantly surprised when she learned five of the teachers signed up to attend.

“I was floored to find out the five teachers had signed up! The group included both fifth-grade math teachers, the sixth- and seventh-grade math teacher, and both high-school science teachers.”

The teachers reported they had already learned a lot by lunch on the first day and were excited to implement some of the information in their classes back home.

“There are many teachers in this country who would benefit greatly from being able to attend a workshop like MWM,” says Ann. “I understand that MWM moves around the country with JSM, but there are large swaths of the country that will never be near a JSM. It would be great if other MWMs could be held elsewhere throughout the year in addition to being held at JSM.”

When asked if Ann would encourage teachers to attend MWM again or participate in other ASA K–12 statistics education programs, she said, “Absolutely. The enthusiasm these teachers showed during the workshop was fun to see. And the bits of the session I saw were really great! I can see why the teachers were so enthusiastic!”

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