This interdisciplinary unit plan is intended for high school Statistics courses taught in New Haven Public Schools. Many of the students I teach have low skill retention and will benefit from a review of graphing skills covered in the prerequisite courses for Statistics (Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2). These graphing skills include providing a graph or chart with a descriptive title, labeling the axes of a coordinate plane with the appropriate scales and variables, plotting ordered pairs, using the slope and y-intercept of a linear function to graph a line on a coordinate plane, and determining the equation of a line in slope-intercept form given two points. Students enrolled in Statistics classes are in eleventh or twelfth grade and are likely to encounter problems that require application of the aforementioned skills on the SAT. In Statistics, students will also acquire new skills such as fitting a linear regression model to a scatterplot, using the correlation coefficient and coefficient of determination to assess the linearity of a scatterplot, and creating a plot of residuals to evaluate whether a linear model is a reasonable fit for the data. These tasks will be simplified with technological tools like the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator and Desmos.
While several of my students are capable of executing mathematical algorithms correctly, they often struggle to understand when and why we use them. They have difficulty tackling questions that require them to justify their solution steps or interpret their answer in the context of the data. This is why it might be helpful for them to learn linear regression concepts as they relate to a real-world issue – in this case, income inequality. By facilitating discussions on the history of income inequality, the reasons for its existence, the factors that influence inequality levels in various countries, and ways to alleviate inequality, I will get to learn more about my students’ knowledge of topics beyond the realm of mathematics. Perhaps this will give students who lack self-confidence in mathematics and shine in other subjects more opportunities for oral participation. Income inequality is a topic that infuses statistics with history and social studies, two subjects that give students plenty of opportunities to share their personal opinions about world issues.
A large number of my students come from low-income backgrounds or live in poor neighborhoods. Their families, peers, or they themselves are likely to be affected by rising levels of income inequality. Many of my students face immense pressure to achieve greater financial or educational success than their parents. Therefore, it is expected that this unit will resonate with them, as the ultimate goal is for them to come up with policies to alleviate income inequality based on statistical findings. Of course, there is no solution to income inequality that is universally agreed upon. However, controversy can often generate discourse, which is typically a sign of engagement in the classroom.