Poopy Statistics

Most who read this blog know me as an English teacher. However, what some may not know is that I have taught at least one math course for all 9 years of my teaching career, including next year. In fact, I have taught every math course I am certified to teach: 6th, 7th, and 8th grade math, Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Trigonometry / Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and Statistics. I am even helping out with our AP Physics class next year, as it is a math-heavy course. I love math.

So math is where my mind was at when I came across this joke the other day (paraphrased):
“It’s skewed a bit by my first couple years, but I still poop my pants 22 times a year on average.”

I love this joke. I’m going to be 31 years old next month, and I probably poop my pants, on average, over 32 times a year.

The key, of course, is in the words “on average.” I’m definitely going to have my students calculate this for themselves next year in my stats course. Here’s what I did:

First, I needed an estimate of how many times I pooped my pants/diaper as an infant. Having a newborn of my own, I have a pretty good idea that this is way more than I thought humanly possible. A number my wife and I are often told is healthy is three times a day, at least for the first three months or so, when it begins to lessen. So for the first three months of my life, I probably pooped my pants about 90 times.

Mr. Poopy Pants Himself

Fun fact: as I was typing that last sentence, my son pooped his pants.

Let’s be conservative with the rest of the poops. Maybe I pooped about once a day until I was 2, and then, like magic, I was potty-trained (crossing my fingers that this happens with my own son!). This gives us 730 pooped pants.

But let’s be honest. That number isn’t right. It’s probably actually over 1000 (I’m pretty sure my son is over 1000 already, and he’s not even 4 weeks old). So let’s just go ahead and settle on 1000 poops. It’s a nice number, easy to remember.

So I have pooped my pants 1000 times. Over 31 years of my life, that is — on average — over 32 times a year.

The reason I love this joke is because I can use it to help my students think about the measures of center, and which ones really make sense to use. Yes, I can say I still poop my pants, on average, 32 times a year, but that’s certainly not the case (I max out at like 25 or so, I swear). So which measure of center makes sense to use here? The mean (often called “the average”)? The median? The mode?

The default example for this seems to be income levels, with one worker making over a million dollars and everyone else making around $30,000. Trust me: that has no basis to our students. But tell them they poop their pants over 50 times a year, and I promise you you’ll have their attention.

And there’s even a bonus linear modeling question! If someone poops their pants an average of 22 times a year, and we assume they pooped 1000 times as an infant, how old are they likely to be? I’ll leave that one for you to work out on your own.

Comic Peeps You Need to Know

You may or may not have noticed this, but we are kind of in the midst of a high point of comic love, especially for kids. Graphic novels (or as they’d been called for years before people got freaked out by their kids reading comics instead of traditional books, “comic books”) were honored by the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz committees this past awards season. The Kids’ Comics Revolution Kids’ Comics Awards were announced just a few weeks ago at the Kids Read Comics Festival in Ann Arbor. The Eisner Awards were just announced last night at the San Diego Comic-Con, and we saw authors who write mainly or exclusively for children win major awards — awards without a “kids” category.

In all of this, I’ve been thinking about some of the best and smartest people in the comics industry, especially when it comes to bringing comics into the classroom with success. I assume that, if you’re reading this blog, you probably know the likes of Cece Bell, Jenni Holm, Matthew Holm, Jeff Smith, and Raina Telgemeier. If you don’t, go look them up, read their works, and get them for your classroom. You probably won’t see those books for months, aside from when your students have them open.

But what about some superstars who aren’t, for whatever reason, as well known? There’s a few I’ve become familiar with over the past few years, and they are absolutely stellar.

Jerzy Drozd
Who is he? Jerzy is an accomplished comics creator, including the webcomic Boulder and Fleet and as part of the trio who created the graphic version of The Warren Commission Report.
Why should I know him? While Jerzy’s comics creating skills are unquestionable, his teaching is beyond compare. I’ve been fortunate enough to witness him give a workshop for kids, and the amount of teaching he did and the amount of learning that the kids did was mind-blowing. I’ve seen good educators do their thing, but. . .wow. You can find Jerzy on Twitter @Jerzy or on his website (with links to his webcomic and workshops).

Faith Erin Hicks
Who is she? Faith is the creator of 10 comics for teens, including the Eisner-winning Adventures of Superhero Girl.
Why should I know her? In addition to writing amazing things, Faith is a strong advocate for intelligent things: using comics with people who like to read them, treating women and men with equal amounts of respect and admiration, and the benefits of being Canadian. Basically, she’s the entire package, and you should be hunting down her every book and including it in your classroom (preview first — some of her stuff tends to skew more YA than MG). I was able to read an early copy of her upcoming solo project, The Nameless City, and, you guys. Holy crap. It’s amazing. Not at all surprising. Follow Faith on Twitter @FaithErinHicks or her website.

Scott Robins
Who is he? Scott is a Children’s librarian for the Toronto Public Library system. He writes on a School Library Journal blog called Good Comics for Kids and is also the author of A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics.
Why should I know him? Okay, if the above two sentences didn’t give you enough reason, then I don’t know what you’re looking for. Scott is incredibly knowledgeable (like, top of his field knowledgeable). If you haven’t heard of him, then he is absolutely the best librarian dealing with comics who you haven’t heard of. If you have heard of him, then he is the best librarian dealing with comics who you have heard of. You can find Scott on Twitter @scout101.

Dave Roman
Who is he? Dave is the creator of several comics for kids and teens, including one of my absolute favorites, TeenBoat! (co-created with illustrator John Green).
Why should I know him? He is the smartest person I’ve ever heard talk about comics. If you find yourself needing some rational thinking about why comics are good to use with students or just a shot in the arm to support what you’re already doing, look up Dave Roman and the things he has to say. In addition to being a great comics creator and possessing a superior comics brain, Dave and Jerzy Drozd (see above) also run the Kids’ Comics Revolution Podcast. It is worth every second of your time. You can find him on Twitter @yaytime or at his website.

Bonus Website! Reading With Pictures
Reading With Pictures is not a person, I know. But it’s a website run by some amazing people. Their mission statement says it all, I think:

Reading With Pictures advocates for the use of comics in the classroom and beyond to promote literacy and improve educational outcomes for all students. We work with academics to cultivate groundbreaking research into the proper role of comics in education. We collaborate with cartoonists to produce exceptional graphic novel content for scholastic use. Most importantly, we partner with educators to develop a system of best practices for integrating comics into their curriculum. At Reading With Pictures, we get comics into schools and get schools into comics.

So there you go! If you’re not familiar with these people (or website), go check them out. We’re living in an age where comics are amazing, and those being written for a school-age audience are both well-written and enjoyable. Why would you not want to do everything you can to include them for your students?