Model Chance: A Technology-Rich Environment for Learning Probability
The project spans three years and addresses the Modeling Scientific Processes theme. All work will be conducted at the Rose Park Middle School, a site of current research and a long-term partner with Peabody College, and Nashville's Metropolitan School District to improve instruction in mathematics and science. In the first year, the focus of effort will extend current work in modeling measurement processes and outcomes with middle school students to include agent-based description and simulation of these precessed and outcomes. Measurement is proving to be fruitful context for introducing students to the idea of distribution. Students so-equipped seem to be in a much better position to appreciate and describe variation, especially when the sourced of variation are not pre-packaged as they are in typical school labs. We will conduct interviews with students and videotape selected classrooms to describe changes in thinking and reasoning over time when students employ the Model Chance simulator tool.In the second year, the focus shifts to modeling micro-evolutionary processes. Students will conduct a sequential series of experiments involving Wisconsin Fast Plants (TM) across multiple generations, selecting for attributes and observing the resulting shifts in the distribution of measures for the plant population. The empirical data will serve as a test-bed for models of process: both those of genetic drift and those of natural selection. A second focus will be biological models of diffusion, again tested in realistic contexts. What happens when a new agent is introduced to an ecosystem? How might such a process be modeled? Patterns of students' reasoning will be documented in design studies. The third year features revision of the instructional materials with an eye toward "lessons learned" during the previous two years.