An Interesting Take on “Average”

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 10.13.11 PMWhen I’ve taught “measures of central tendency” to students in the past, I always asked them a simple question.  If given the choice, would they choose for a teacher to calculate their grade by using the mean, median, or mode?  I’d also ask them to justify their choice.

Students have always come up with interesting and primarily personal stories to justify their measure of central tendency choices.  I often wonder if this silly question bears more merit than I initially meant it to.  The concept of “average” ties deeply into assessment practices.  I’m not saying this is necessarily bad… I just wonder… is “average” good?  Best?

I have been wrestling with some very fundamental assessment philosophies in light of the tools we’ve been equipped with this past year, namely, iPads.  I hope to resolve some of my thoughts before fall, so I can implement new ideas this upcoming school year.  I struggle with how to “grade” homework, the idea of when something should even “count” for a “grade” and finally, once I have all of these “grades” what do they really mean?  (No pun intended on the use of “mean” there…)

I don’t have all the answers.  I’m not sure I have any answers – just a lot of questions.  In the midst of my thoughts about assessment and the idea of “average,” the following video was shared with me.  I like the message a lot.  In the end, I’m feeling the desperate longing for some concrete classroom examples.  (I’m also feeling a deep yearning for all of my “average” classroom desks to grow legs and walk away this summer, and instead, magically, classroom furniture that facilitates flexible grouping shows up instead… but I digress…)

Check out the video – how does this message impact teaching and learning in our classrooms?  Assessment?  Even furniture?  For mathematics specifically, doesn’t it ring true that we’re often assessing reading comprehension well before we’re assessing mathematics?  What do we do with this message?  How do we move forward?  (Well gee, aren’t my comments a big old spoiler alert!  Trust me – it is still worth the 18-minute investment to watch this video.)

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 9.54.15 PM

The questions begs to be asked… “Is it time to stop the average…?


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