The first activity in the lab Thursday required teachers to air-pop a
selection of different kinds of popcorn and count the rate at which the
kernels popped. With the help of audio and visual recordings of the
process and a specialized app, the teams of teachers divided the popping
process into 10-second intervals and counted the number of kernels that
popped during each segment.
As it turns out, they pop at a rate — a small number at the
beginning, many more in the middle, and a small number toward the end —
that can be graphed as what is commonly called a bell curve.
“That’s why, when you wait for those last, slow kernels to pop, the ones that popped early can end up burned,” Jungck said.
The teachers also built Galton Boards, which are a 3-D way of showing
— by rolling small balls randomly into an array of channels on the
board — the same kind of distribution, known as normal or Gaussian, that
looks similar to a bell curve.
Teachers, who worked in interdisciplinary teams from each school,
said the lesson was especially useful because of its connections to many
subjects beyond statistics and probability. A key goal of the MSP
project is to find ways in which teachers from different science and
math disciplines can work together to show STEM connections to their
“The nice thing about what we’re doing today is that it’s based in
statistics, and that’s useful for analyzing data in so many fields,”
said Peter Yonko, who teaches physics at Newark High School. “So this
kind of lesson is very applicable across disciplines.”
For Appoquinimink High School teacher Samantha Neubert, the
experience at ISE Lab had her already thinking of ways to expand the
lesson into other topics for students in her Advanced Placement
environmental science class.
“I can see using this to discuss corn as an agricultural product,
biodiversity, how a particular variety might have characteristics like
heat sensitivity that would determine where it would be grown …,” she
said. “And I think this is also a really good way to teach statistics
and probability lessons. It’s much more engaging for the students.”