Finding the Regression Line without Calculus

Last month, my latest professional article, Deriving the Regression Line with Algebra, was published in the April 2017 issue of Mathematics Teacher (Vol. 110, Issue 8, pages 594-598). Although linear regression is commonly taught in high school algebra, the usual derivation of the regression line requires multidimensional calculus. Accordingly, algebra students are typically taught the keystrokes for finding the line of best fit on a graphing calculator with little conceptual understanding of how the line can be found.

In my article, I present an alternative way that talented Algebra II students (or, in principle, Algebra I students) can derive the line of best fit for themselves using only techniques that they already know (in particular, without calculus).

For copyright reasons, I’m not allowed to provide the full text of my article here, though subscribers to Mathematics Teacher should be able to read the article by clicking the above link. (I imagine that my article can also be obtained via inter-library loan from a local library.) That said, I am allowed to share a macro-enabled Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that I wrote that allows students to experimentally discover the line of best fit:

http://www.math.unt.edu/~johnq/ExploringTheLineofBestFit.xlsm

I created this spreadsheet so that students can explore (which is, after all, the first E of the 5-E model) the properties of the line of best fit. In this spreadsheet, students can enter a data set with up to 10 points and then experiment with different slopes and y-intercepts. As they experiment, the spreadsheet keeps track of the current sum of the squares of the residuals as well as the best guess attempted so far. After some experimentation, the spreadsheet can also provide the correct answer so that students can see how close they got to the right answer.

My Mathematical Magic Show: Part 3c

Last March, on Pi Day (March 14, 2015), I put together a mathematical magic show for the Pi Day festivities at our local library, compiling various tricks that I teach to our future secondary teachers. I was expecting an audience of junior-high and high school students but ended up with an audience of elementary school students (and their parents). Still, I thought that this might be of general interest, and so I’ll present these tricks as well as the explanations for these tricks in this series. From start to finish, this mathematical magic show took me about 50-55 minutes to complete. None of the tricks in this routine are original to me; I learned each of these tricks from somebody else.

green line

In the last couple of posts, I discussed a trick for predicting the number of triangles that appear when a convex x-gon with y points in the middle is tesselated. Though I probably wouldn’t do the following in a magic show (for the sake of time), this is a natural inquiry-based activity to do with pre-algebra students in a classroom setting (as opposed to an entertainment setting) to develop algebraic thinking. I’d begin by giving the students a sheet of paper like this:

trianglechart

Then I’ll ask them to start on the left box. I’ll tell them to draw a triangle in the box and place one point inside, and then subdivide into smaller triangles. Naturally, they all get 3 triangles.

Then I ask them to repeat if there are two points inside. Everyone will get 5 triangles.

Then I ask them to repeat until they can figure out a pattern. When they figure out the pattern, then they can make a prediction about what the rest of the chart will be.

Then I’ll ask them what the answer would be if there were 100 points inside of the triangle. This usually requires some thought. Eventually, the students will get the pattern T = 2P+1 for the number of triangles if the initial figure is a triangle.

Then I’ll repeat for a quadrilateral (with four sides instead of three). After some drawing and guessing, the students can usually guess the pattern T=2P+2.

Then I’ll repeat for a pentagon. After some drawing and guessing, the students can usually guess the pattern T=2P+3.

Then I’ll have them guess the pattern for the hexagon without drawing anything. They’ll usually predict the correct answer, T = 2P+4.

What about if the outside figure has 100 sides? They’ll usually predict the correct answer, T = 2P+98.

What if the outside figure has N sides? By now, they should get the correct answer, T = 2P + N - 2.

This activity fosters algebraic thinking, developing intuition from simple cases to get a pretty complicated general expression. However, this activity is completely tractable since it only involves drawing a bunch of figures on a piece of paper.

R. L. Moore, the Moore method, and Inquiry-Based Learning

Devlin’s Angle recently published a nice synopsis of the work of R. L. Moore, one of the great mathematics instructors of the 20th century: http://devlinsangle.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-greatest-math-teacher-ever.html

Moore’s method uses the axiomatic method as an instructional device. Moore would give the students the axioms a few at a time and let them deduce consequences. A typical Moore class might begin like this. Moore would ask one student to step up to the board to prove a result stated in the previous class or to give a counterexample to some earlier conjecture — and very occasionally to formulate a new axiom to meet a previously identified need. Moore would generally begin by asking the weakest student to make the first attempt — or at least the student who had hitherto contributed least to the class. The other students would be charged with pointing out any errors in the first student’s presentation.

Very often, the first student would be unable to provide a satisfactory answer — or even any answer at all, and so Moore might ask for volunteers or else call upon the next weakest, then the next, and so on. Sometimes, no one would be able to provide a satisfactory answer. If that were the case, Moore might provide a hint or a suggestion, but nothing that would form a constitutive part of the eventual answer. Then again, he might simply dismiss the group and tell them to go away and think some more about the problem.

Moore’s discovery method was not designed for — and probably will not work in — a mathematics course which should survey a broad area or cover a large body of facts. And it would obviously need modification in an area of mathematics where the student needs a substantial background knowledge in order to begin. But there are areas of mathematics where, in the hands of the right teacher — and possibly the right students — Moore’s procedure can work just fine. Moore’s own area of general topology is just such an area. You can find elements of the Moore method being used in mathematics classes at many institutions today, particularly in graduate courses and in classes for upper-level undergraduate mathematics majors, but few instructors ever take the process to the lengths that Moore did, and when they try, they rarely meet with the same degree of success.

Lest this sound extreme, here’s a snapshot of Moore’s educational philosophy produced:

If you measure teaching quality in terms of the product – the successful students – our man has no competition for the title of the greatest ever math teacher. During his 64 year career as a professor of mathematics, he supervised fifty successful doctoral students. Of those fifty Ph.D.’s, three went on to become presidents of the AMS – a position our man himself held at one point – and three others vice-presidents, and five became presidents of the MAA. Many more pursued highly successful careers in mathematics, achieving influential positions in the AMS and the MAA, producing successful Ph.D. students of their own and helping shape the development of American mathematics as it rose to its present-day position of world dominance.

Present-day inquiry-based learning uses some (but not all) elements of Moore’s teaching style. I personally do not teach using the Moore method, as I have developed my own teaching style that seems to work well with my students. That said, I would seriously consider using the Moore method for classes which are best suited for this style of pedagogy.

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

Last October, I read the following interesting blog post about a teacher who placed herself in the position of her students for a couple of days: http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/a-veteran-teacher-turned-coach-shadows-2-students-for-2-days-a-sobering-lesson-learned/

The lessons learned from this exercise partially explain why I’m an advocate for inquiry-based learning… under the firm presupposition that teaching with this method is an acquired skill, and that this technique can go south in a hurry if it’s not exercised properly.

The 4E X 2: A Structure for Inquiry-Based Instruction

I recently came across the following 17-minute webinar about the 4E x 2 structure for teaching mathematics, which is almost identical to the 5E model that we use at Teach North Texas for preparing secondary teachers of mathematics and science. I recommend it highly.

https://connect.clemson.edu/p1vckxf1295/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

Full lesson plan: Modular multiplication and encryption

Over the summer, I occasionally teach a small summer math class for my daughter and her friends around my dining room table. Mostly to preserve the memory for future years… and to provide a resource to my friends who wonder what their children are learning… I’ll write up the best of these lesson plans in full detail.

In this lesson, the students practiced their skills with multiplication and division to create modular multiplication tables. Though this is a concept ordinarily first encountered in an undergraduate class in number theory or abstract algebra, there’s absolutely no reason why elementary students who’ve mastered multiplication can’t do this exercise. This exercise strengthens the notion of dividing with a remainder and leads to a fun application with encrypting and decrypting secret messages. Indeed, this activity made be viewed as a child-appropriate version of the RSA encryption algorithm that’s used every time we use our credit cards. This was mentioned in two past posts: https://meangreenmath.com/2013/10/17/engaging-students-finding-prime-factorizations and https://meangreenmath.com/2013/07/11/cryptography-as-a-teaching-tool

This lesson plan is written in a 5E format — engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate — which promotes inquiry-based learning and fosters student engagement.

Lesson Plan: Kid RSA Lesson

Other Documents:

Vocabulary Sheet

Three Letter Words

RSA Numbers

 Modular Multiplication Tables

Modular Multiplication Assessment

Modular Multiplcation Practice

Kid RSA

Full lesson plan: Designing a model solar system

Over the summer, I occasionally teach a small summer math class for my daughter and her friends around my dining room table. Mostly to preserve the memory for future years… and to provide a resource to my friends who wonder what their children are learning… I’ll write up the best of these lesson plans in full detail.

This was a fun activity that took a couple of hours: designing a model Solar System. I chose the scale so that most of the planets would fit on a straight section of sidewalk near my house; of course, the scale could be changed to fit the available space.

For my particular audience of students, I also worked through the basics of the metric system as well as decimals.

This lesson plan is written in a 5E format — engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate — which promotes inquiry-based learning and fosters student engagement.

Model Solar System Handout

Model Solar System Lesson

Post Assessment

P.S. For what it’s worth, the world’s largest model solar system can be found in Sweden.

Full lesson plan: Platonic solids

Over the summer, I occasionally teach a small summer math class for my daughter and her friends around my dining room table. Mostly to preserve the memory for future years… and to provide a resource to my friends who wonder what their children are learning… I’ll write up the best of these lesson plans in full detail.

This was the first lesson that I taught to this audience: constructing the five regular polyhedra and inductively deriving Euler’s formula. This lesson plan is written in a 5E format — engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate — which promotes inquiry-based learning and fosters student engagement.

Platonic Solids Lesson

Post Assessment 1

Post Assessment 2

V-E-F Chart

Vocabulary Sheet

Full lesson plan: magic squares

Over the summer, I occasionally teach a small summer math class for my daughter and her friends around my dining room table. Mostly to preserve the memory for future years… and to provide a resource to my friends who wonder what their children are learning… I’ll write up the best of these lesson plans in full detail.

This was perhaps my favorite: fostering algebraic thinking through the use of 3×3 magic squares, which have the property that the numbers in every row, column, and diagonal have the same sum.

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This lesson plan is written in a 5E format — engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate — which promotes inquiry-based learning and fosters student engagement.

Magic Squares Lesson Plan

Post Assessment 1

Post Assessment 2

Vocabulary Sheet

Magic Squares Examples