TECH TIP: Teaching Least Squares to a 5th Grader

For all the perceived complexity these days surrounding machine learning technology, it is heartwarming to see it brought down to the level of understanding for a 5th grade student. Case in point, the video below was made by a teacher using the R statistical software to demonstrate the concept of calculating least squares, an elementary statistical method that is used in linear regression – often the basis of common predictive analytics.

The video uses the popular Lego Mindstorms robotics kit as an example to perform the simple task of figuring out how to make the robot move any given distance. To do this, you need to program the number of wheel rotations. The video shows how one can use this to motivate and teach least squares. The formula used was distance = K × rotations, collected data for 1,2…, 10 rotations, then used R to motivate (via plots) and calculate the least squares estimate of K. Pretty heady stuff … for a 5th grader!

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