Bring Video Into Your Classroom: Estimation, Median, and Wisdom of the Crowds

Common Core State Standards: 
Reason Abstractly
Model with Mathematics
Instructional Strategies: 
Interacting With Peers
Organizing
Thinking Aloud

Looking for a fun way to get your students learning about estimation, averages, means, and medians? Check out NOVA’s ScienceNow video on the “Wisdom of the Crowds” phenomenon. “Wisdom of the Crowds” was discovered by statistician Francis Galton in the early 20th century. During a contest to estimate the weight of a slaughtered ox, Galton observed that the median guess of all 800 participants was accurate within 1% of the true weight of the ox. Thus, Galton introduced to the world to the concept that a crowd's individual judgments can be modeled as a probability distribution of responses, with the mean centered near the true mean of the quantity to be estimated.

One of the best aspects of this video is that the information is presented as a song, which is a humorous and engaging way to present a lesson. Presenting auditory and visual information together can be a useful strategy to engage struggling students, and those with disabilities. 

Use the “Wisdom of the Crowds” activity as an interactive experiment with your students. By designing a classroom experiment to test the “wisdom of crowds” phenomenon, students can work in small groups to work together to discover the solution. Encouraging student interaction helps reinforce the concept as well as help struggling students who benefit from additional explanation and peer support. View the PowerUp Instructional Strategy Guide: Interacting with Peers and Thinking Aloud  for details on how to incorporate these strategies into your lesson.

Do you have your own ideas for this lesson? Don’t forget to share your success stories and classroom ideas with us and comment below!

Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Caroline Martin for helping to compile this post.

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