In Statistics, the idea of “variance” describes how disperse data points are. Are they all bunched right at the mean, or are they very spread out, with some values much larger than the mean, and other values much lower than the mean? I taught this topic last week, and was able to create a visual (and beyond) image for my students. I entered my classroom stomping snow off my boots as I took off my coat and scarf. I asked them the question; “does anyone even remember the heat of the summer?” A room full of tired students who had driven to school in a storm glared back at me. No, no one seemed to remember the sweltering heat and humidity of the summer that had led to a tornado sweeping through and destroying part of the campus. And so I discussed the idea of variation in weather, as it relates to the calculation of the variance of a data set.
This winter has been particularly brutal here in Northeast Ohio, where our school children ran out of snow days last week. That means that, thanks to the miracle of the internet, teachers are able to send assignments home to children. The expectation is that the children will work on the assignments on their own, with some help from parents, so they do not find themselves going to school in late June or July. While the idea is sound, this means that parents are left teaching material that they may not have studied for many years. I find that this is a challenge for me, even though I am a teacher myself. It is also a challenge for the children, some of whom take the assignments more seriously than do others. I was proud of my daughter when she answered the door last night to two friends who wanted her to come out and play. “I have homework to do” she told them, as she watched them go off to play in the snow. I know that she would have preferred to go out and play, but she made the correct decision and declined the invitation.
Much of our state of Ohio has used up its allotted number of snow days already (and spring does not officially start for six weeks.) I have begun to cringe when I hear the phone ring at 5:30 AM to tell us that there will be another snow day. This is particularly difficult for my daughter, who thrives on the structure of knowing what to expect each day. I suspect that the woman in the neighborhood who watches children and is available at a moment’s notice is also getting tired of this, despite the additional income she earns from desperate parents like me. There is talk about a bill before the state legislature that will increase the number of days available, but I doubt it will pass in time to free me from having to teach my daughter about the Renaissance or Astronomy. I ran into our state representative a few days ago and begged him to pass the bill, and to pass it quickly. I suspect that it will pass, as I don’t know anyone who is not frustrated at the current weather, no matter what political party they belong to.
As frustrating as the situation is for me, I think of my parents several states away and the struggles they endure dealing with snow and ice as well as being elderly. Indeed, my mother broke several bones in late 2013, and has only recently come home from a nursing home where she healed from one such injury. An article in our local newspaper discussed the idea of “cabin fever”, which I think describes everyone’s attitude lately. And so I ask my readers, how are you dealing with being cooped up in the winter, when the snow and coldness does not seem to end?