You may be a native speaker or your Spanish is limited to “margarita”. Either way, if you have Spanish-speaking students in your class, you have a bilingual classroom.

I’m going to assume that you want all students in your classroom to be engaged and learning. If not, hopefully, you quit reading this blog and apply for positions in your new career as an accountant.

After reading this, it will be obvious that you could adapt this lesson to any classroom but bilingual classrooms are what we are talking about today.

Using what’s on their phones to teach what’s in your lesson plan

Still reading? All right then, here is an activity that involves both your English learners and your native English speakers, lets them use their phones, teaches computer applications and basic statistics. You can modify this in an infinite number of ways but here is the basis.

Research question: Do different Spanish and English speakers differ in their interests, as determined by what they post on Instagram?

You can talk about what is a statistical question, which middle school math teachers will recognize as a Common Core Standard.

Next, you need a hypothesis, for example, “Spanish-speakers are more likely to post pictures of food than English speakers” or “English accounts will have more pictures of themselves than Spanish accounts”.

In selecting a hypothesis, you can discuss distribution and probability. If almost no one takes pictures of giraffes then the probability of finding enough giraffe pictures to compare is low. (Be prepared for your students to suggest the hashtag #giraffesofinstagram).

After you have picked one hypothesis, put your class in groups of 4 or 5 students. Each person in the group has to find 10 accounts in English and 10 in Spanish. Within the group, the accounts have to be similar. That is, the English accounts can’t be your friends and the Spanish ones famous soccer players. (This also gets you a chance to expand vocabulary a bit, explaining the meaning of the word ‘similar’.) 

They can pull out their phones or “for anyone who didn’t bring a phone to school with them today, they can look up Instagram accounts on the computer.” As a former middle school teacher, I can tell you, that wording matters. You want to imply that anyone who doesn’t have a phone with them probably has one at home that they just didn’t bring to school. 


For each account, look at the last 10 posts. How many of those were pictures of him/ herself (or food)? This will give you 20 numbers for each group and 80-100 for the whole class.

Have each group analyze their own data

Enter the numbers for Spanish or English speakers in a spreadsheet using Google sheets, Excel or Open Office etc.

Compute the sum  and average for the 10 selected by each group.

Compute a frequency distribution for the two Spanish and English accounts.  Find the median and mode.

Graph the distributions

What did you find out?

Discuss the idea of variation within the accounts. Discuss the idea of variation across the groups. Did the different groups in your class find the exact same results?

Discuss variation in samples What could have explained the different results? Did some groups have accounts that were all celebrities, all friends, all male?

Now, put all 80 or 100 numbers together in one file and do it again.

Have each group find the mean, median and mode for Spanish speakers and English speakers.  Have them create frequency distributions and graph the distributions again.

Will your students become statisticians from this exercise? No. However, the more experiences that students have like this getting their hands on actual numbers, computing statistics and testing hypotheses, the better they will understand statistics in particular and the usefulness of math in general.


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