Tuesday, August 1, 2017

AP Statistics Olympics

This is an activity that I think I invented.  I'm not 100% sure though, since I've been doing it for a long time and usually I steal activities from the internet, but I think this one is mine.  Please tell me if I'm wrong so I can give the real inventor credit!

AP Statistics Olympics!

I introduce z-scores by holding the AP Statistics Olympics in my class.  We start right away with the three olympic events.  I model each event and then kids can do them in any order all at once in a bunch of wonderful chaos.  The events and the notetaking all take place in a 47 minute class period, and with up to 32 kids in the class.

1) Trashketball
I set up a trash can against a wall and make a line on the floor with some masking tape.  Kids throw as many balled up pieces of paper in a row as possible.  Keep throwing until you miss and write your #shots on the board.  Most kids miss the first shot and get a 0.  For the sake of time, it's helpful to set up two trashketball stations.

2) Broad Jump (Standing Long Jump)
This is the station that I (wo)man.  On the floor I have a long piece of masking tape marked off with distances (by inch).  Students jump as far as they can, I call out where their heels hit and they write their distance on the board.

3) Reaction Time
I set up a few laptops (just having one laptop isn't enough - Holy Traffic Jam Batman!) and have students go to this website: https://www.humanbenchmark.com/tests/reactiontime
They write their average score over 5 tries (the website calculates the average for you) on a clipboard that I have over by the laptops.

As students finish up, I quickly input all the data into a spreadsheet so that I can calculate the average and standard deviation for each event.

I announce that we need to have one gold medal winner, one silver, and one bronze - but we had three different events, how can we compare?  This leads into . . . z-scores!  How impressive was a student's performance compared to everyone else?

We calculate the z-score for the winner of each event, and then we write out what this means in words.  I like that the reaction time winner will have a negative z-score, which automatically leads into discussions about positive/negative z-scores and absolute value.

Here are two photos of the completed foldable:

And a link to a blank copy of the foldable: https://app.box.com/s/rgkdo6fpk58ealg8n9yd

What I'd like to do differently:
You can see that in past years we just compared the top performer in each event.  This year I'd like for students to calculate their own z-scores in each of the three events and then we can discuss how we could combine those three z-scores for one score that encompasses all three events.  For example, you can't just take the absolute value of each z-score and add them, because if you have a negative z-score in the broad jump that would mean that you were below average and taking the absolute value would make it seem like you were above average.  I want the kids to figure out what makes the most sense here.

In addition, this year I'm NOT doing ISN's (Interactive Student Notebooks) - I'm doing chapter packets instead (only including my best foldables in the packet).  More about that in a future post.

I'm attaching my Chapter 2 Packet to this post - the new z-score pages are on pages 30-31 of the packet (the chapter 2 packet isn't that long, it's just that I continued the page numbering from the Chapter 1 packet - kind of like an ISN).


  1. This looks a super fun activity that gets at the heart of some important statistics. I'm really interested in these chapter packets. What made you switch from the isns? Is there more flexibility than doing it your old way? I guess I'll have to wait for your future post to find out!

    1. I will write more about it but it's largely a time issue - I want to cut down the time in class that is used for cutting and pasting foldables and use it on more group work and deeper discussions. I also have a toddler and an infant now, so I'm trying to reorganize my time a bit and I've been spending whole planning periods cutting paper - I'm hoping the packets will serve the same purpose in less time!

  2. I have SO been looking for an activity like this! This is amazing. I ❤ the idea for intro'ing z-scores. This makes it tangible, real and fun. Our school is a 1 to 1 iPad school, so I've gone to electronic notes...I miss doing INBs. I need to figure out a way to get them back. Hmm. Thanks for sharing!