01 December 2014

3 Act Math Story - AP Stats - Ferguson Protestors

We're discussing sampling techniques in AP Stats right now, and I think a lot has been discussed in conventional and social media since the August 9th shooting of Michael Brown about the "real" Ferguson.

I teach in the district covering Ferguson, MO, so I've had students in my classes that I'm sure can identify with the popular claim, "I am Mike Brown."

I ran across this article in the NY Post over the weekend criticizing CNN's reporting of the looting, violence, and arson following the grand jury decision on November 24th.

The question that comes to mind first when I see this image paired with this headline is, "Well, how would we know?" There are so many variables playing into reporting of the protests. Who is "from" Ferguson? What is the line between "peaceful" and "violent"? Because St. Louis County is so fragmented with numerous municipalities, is there a big difference between being "from" Ferguson and being "from" one of the numerous small cities/villages/towns that border the Ferguson city limits?

Who's "more" of a part of Ferguson, the demonstrators at night or the people that come to clean up in the morning?

As I included in the teacher notes of this story when I posted on 101qs.com, I don't know if there is an "answer" to this question, but I think its a fantastic opportunity to talk about representative sampling, potential bias, and thinking through demographic and survey data that would be relevant in painting the most "real" picture of the attitudes of Ferguson residents.

The story on 101qs with aligned common core standards and accompanying questions, notes, and resources is here:

Evaluating as a 3-Act Story
  • The image-headline combo is great for getting a reaction or response from students (perhaps too much in my specific case).
  • The question is open-ended and there are several avenues students could take to support or refute the claim made by they New York Post writer.
  • I included several potential resources, including the link to the nypost.com story, census bureau quick facts for Ferguson, MO, a survey report from May 2014 evaluating the effectiveness of government services, and a map of Ferguson breaking down the wards. There are probably a few other data sources kids might need depending what path they go down, but from the teacher perspective of someone else using it in their classroom, I think its quite useful.
  • Since there's not a specific, black-and-white answer, there isn't a lot of closure. I could include a video of Ferguson residents actually peacefully demonstrating, or the dozens and dozens of volunteers that have helped clean up day after day, but that's not as rewarding as "here's the answer. Ta-da!"

In closing I would ask you to rate by the simplest barometer of success for a 3-Act Math story: Is this "perplexing?"

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Thanks for sharing!