Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Advice for the AP Stats Newbie

I've been asked several times this year for some advice for educators teaching AP Statistics for the first time. Here is usually what I tell these new teachers:

First, let me start by pointing out that Stats teachers are one of the most generous ed groups out there. The vast majority are teaching solo in their schools and/or taught for the first time with little support. So many of us remember having been right where you, the newbie teachers, are. 

Some things to do right away:

1. Locate all the resources available with your textbook. There are likely many additional items that are out there to supplement that specific text. There might be video lectures, data sets, reading guides, suggestions for test questions, and lots of activity ideas. Although I do really like the book we use at my school, I use almost every other book approved for AP Stats for additional problems, inspiration, and resources. They are all pretty readable and easy to understand.

2. Make a calendar now! One of your main goals should be to think about how you can complete the curriculum by the end of April. It can sneak up on teachers, even the veterans. If you can, plan out the whole year as best you can. There are lots of model syllabi available and that is a great place to start. I do this every year and it's what gets me through with all the things that need to get taught and done. It's sometimes comes down to just a few days wiggle room.

3. Sign up for the AP Statistics community. It is by far the most welcoming closed and moderated online source for teachers, especially newbies. Teachers have nice discussions and share invaluable resources with each other. But best of all, you can ask any question. This is a safe haven, if you will. No question will be mocked and the people who are answering them (in some cases the lead author of your textbook) are kind, patient, and very helpful.

4. Attend a workshop. The College Board has summer and school-year workshops for AP Statistics. I have been to several and they are fantastic. The workshop leaders will go through lots of examples and problems that you can use in your own classrooms. There are also workshops at conferences from the professional organizations, like NCTM and ASA. While most are not free, I think they are worth the cost even if you have to pay out of pocket.

5. Find allies and plan together. Create a Dropbox where you can share files and good finds. It's very rewarding for me to plan with AP Stats colleagues on a regular basis. We keep each other honest with our pacing/topics and even create common exams and activities together. It's so much nicer when you have someone else's input, especially if it's a bit new. Even if you are the sole Stats teacher in your building, reach out to other teachers in other schools.

Good luck!

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