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.
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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’:
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’.
I have recently been teaching lower ability Year 9 students how to calculate the mean from grouped and ungrouped data tables. I didn’t want to teach them a method to learn by rote, so I used a more investigative approach.
The third table had minimal information. Each group used their own method to find the missing values. Some chose the largest value in the range, some guessed what the results could have been in each group and one group decided to calculate two means – one using the largest value and one using the smallest.
We collected our results together on the board and discussed their accuracy. The class decided to use the middle of each range to calculate the estimated mean. They had gone from no understanding of estimated mean to formulating their own method.