eCOTS 2014 - Virtual Poster #15

"Incorporating Statistics into the AP Biology Classroom: Meeting Common Core Standards"
Lynn Waterhouse, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; & Joanne "JJ" Johnson, Kearny High Complex: School of Science Connections & Technology, San Diego Unified School District


As part of the AP Biology exam there are now questions which rely heavily on students being able to apply mathematics and basic statistics to biological based questions. These questions are designed to better align with the new Common Core standards for teaching biology. Mathematical and statistical skills required include understanding and interpreting chi-squared tests of equal proportions, graphs, rates, and net zero flow charts for systems (e.g. water balance in the hydrological cycle). The majority of the mathematical questions in the AP Biology exam come in the form of grid-in questions or multiple choice questions. In 2013, students taking the AP Biology exam performed poorly on the grid-in questions. In order for students to better prepare for these types of questions more mathematics and statistics must be incorporated into the AP Biology curriculum. Here we present methods and materials, including lab activities, for teaching chi-square analysis and some other basic mathematical and statistical skills. In many cases the teachers may not fully understand the statistical and mathematical topics, particularly chi-squared; as such we have developed materials aimed primarily at informing the instructor, with the goal of increasing the probability of their students' success.



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Lynn Waterhouse:

Hi all, I would love to hear from people if they have any labs or activities that they have used integrating statistics into the biology classroom. While this school year may have ended, JJ and I are always on the lookout for new ideas!

Dennis Pearl:

You might have a look at the activities written by the folks at Eastern Tennessee State University as part of their SYMBIOSIS project.

Lynn Waterhouse:

Thanks Dennis.
Do you know if they have their lesson plans in detail posted anywhere? I am only seeing some summary stuff on this website:

Dennis Pearl:

This looks like a very interesting program for the AP Biology classroom. In your implementation you provided some expertise to the Biology teacher to help them through the material. Do you feel the teacher you worked with will be able to work independently going forward? How do you foresee scaling up this work to efficiently train larger numbers of teachers? Do you think a teams approach might help (pairing up AP Statistics and AP Biology teachers)?

Lynn Waterhouse:

The lesson plans I developed will ultimately be posted at Scripps Classroom Connections ( We are also working on developing some materials aimed just at teachers.
Having no control (or real input) as to how the administration run this school I haven't really though much about teacher training or pairing them up. The English department at my school has effectively paired with the science teachers, which is (1) required under the new common core standards and (2) I think provides a better, more coherent education for the students. It would be great if student's high school experience became more interdisciplinary.
I do think teachers need more training in statistics. The common core standards not only mean that students have to learn in an interdisciplinary setting, but that teachers need to be thinking this way as well. I think for many teachers this means they are now required to be masters of skills they were never introduced to, so yes I think there is an urgent need for additional training for current teachers, and a revamping of curricula for future teachers.