308. Zombie stats

I’ve used word length analysis for years as a source of comparative statistics. The concept is easy – you take a children’s book and a grown up book and compare the word lengths of the first 20, 40, 80 words. After you collect the information in a table, you can use this data to compare averages and the range.

Image credit: www.comingsoon.net
But what texts to use? Well – you can’t beat a bit of Dr Seuss, but what grown up text could you use. I can highly recommend this extract from ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith

Not only will you be investigating mathematical concepts, but you might just be inspiring a student to pick up a book and read.
Update: If you use the first chapter (say thirty words) of ‘Pride & Prejudice & Zombies’ you get some interesting data. The range is wide, but the highest frequency word length is just two. It’s a great conversation piece – why does this happen? The language is a very precise parody of 19th prose with all the correct connectives and no contractions eg ‘it is’ not ‘it’s’.

3. Class Averages

This is my favourite activity for introducing different measures of average. You can do this in a corridor or outside, no special equipment required.

Set Up
Line up the class in height order

Range
Ask the shortest and tallest students to stand back to back. The difference in height is the range.

Median
Tell the first and last student to make a half turn. Ask the second and second to last student to make a half turn. Repeat until only one or two students are facing forward.
One pupil = median height.
Two pupils = halfway between their heights is the median.

Mean
Imagine everyone is the same height. Tell the students to try to be the same height by bending knees or standing on tiptoes. Explain the mean is about sharing out equally.

Mode
Ask students to put themselves into groups of the same height. The biggest group is the mode.

This activity links a numerical calculation with a physical activity, which makes it more memorable.