Conditional Probability

Today in class I introduced conditional probability to a class of grade 11 students. We started by looking NCTM’s conditional-probability-comic activity that uses USA census data on inmates on death row. After introducing the idea of conditional probability, the students completed the table about the marital status of inmates on death row. We discussed sample sizes, and the danger is making a generalization about a group. Cathy O’Neil write more about the risks of using statistics out of context or a manipulated context, in her book Weapons of Math Destruction.

Next, we did the Thinking Routine I see…I think… I wonder… while looking through data daily_arrival_greece from the UNCHR. I asked the students just to notice the data, the graphs, and that would lead us in what conditional probability we would find.

The students asked about: gender, unaccompanied minors, why the children in the pie chart did not have a gender breakdown, what is the age range of a child, how many of the men were married, left behind families, the professions, etc. It led to interesting questions about documented, undocumented refugees, the differences between asylum seekers, transportation, the length of stay in refugee camps for the people, etc. The discussion was rich, and even though we were looking at the numbers, the numbers were much more in-depth since we knew that the values represented people with families and lives.

Then in groups, we worked on finding conditional probability of refugees by origin and the changes in November and December of 2016. We discussed who this information would be relevant to, and areas for further research.

To the math teachers out there, please feel free to use the ideas and comment if you have suggestions. I am planning on looking more at organizations in Greece that are offering help to refugees, specifically children.

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