A matter of data

I’m teaching an algebra unit called “Analyzing Data.”  We’re doing basic stuff really and each year in the past its gone pretty well.  But I’m not too great at doing the same thing each year.

I tend to get bored once I feel like I’ve found one particular solution to a given problem.

So this year I thought I’d frame our unit of study this way, “How can we make decisions based on data?”  It seemed attainable enough a target and I knew It could easily encapsulate everything my school district required.  It also offered me a broader context within which I thought we might find some more opportunities to connect to student interest.

I’m not a bleeding-heart TED fanatic and I’ve done some reading that has helped encourage my doubt a bit, but I do think they are useful for at least one thing: the ideas they present.  And I do want my students to encounter new and engaging ideas.

So, off to TED I went to find a few videos connected to data, data displays and data-driven decisions.

We started with Shyam Sankar and his ideas about Computer/Human Symbiosis.  Pretty cool stuff to get students thinking about why computers haven’t yet replaced them in their decision-making abilities.  (I’ve previously written more about this video here in relationship to a GeoGebra activity I did with my students.)

Then my kiddos did some work with box plots for a few days.

Yesterday we watched this video from David McCandless on beautiful data visualization. Not that it related to box plots directly but rather to our greater question for the unit of how do we make decisions based on data.

Then I had them do some more work looking at transformations of linear data through these box plots.  It went pretty well.

Sensing we were ready for an assessment I printed one out and prepared to give it to my students in class today.

Walking into class this tired Friday morning I looked at the COW (Computers on Wheels) in my classroom and thought, “I really should have them go find some data.”

So that’s what I did.

I had each student log in and asked them to do the following:

Go find data you care about.  Hopefully you find this data presented in a box plot.  If not you will need to calculate a five-number summary so you can construct your own box plot.

You will turn two things in at the end of class:

1.  Your data source (you can submit the dataset or the URL where you found it)

2.  Your five-number summary or box plot

I decided about 20 minutes into class that the tool padlet.com was the best way to share resources and have them submit their work; which you can see here: padlet.com/wall/ilovethisdata


Here is a screenshot of a few student submissions:



I’m pretty excited about the opportunities this presents for us next week.  We are ready to talk about the so what of the data they found and the box plots they will make.  I’ll ask them what decisions they can make based on this data.  But more than that I can ask them how confident they can be based on their data that they are correct.

This might be my favorite thing I’ve done all year long.