Thursday, 23 July 2015

I say data, you say dAta...

We're working on statistics and data at the moment.  I threw the kiddos in the deep end by providing a  pile of data displays and letting them investigate.  Here's what we discovered:

Our next step was a snap shot of our current thinking about the definition of data, which we did on

Some interesting ideas here that we delved into:
  • History you can check - this raised the notion of qualitative versus quantitative data
  • Sorted information - this raised some question about the difference between data and information. I didn't give the the answer to this quandary yet, I'm still hopeful that they'll come to it themselves.
  • Collection of information - not yet having distinguished between data and information this was the most exciting point for me because it came up time and again which told me that there was a basic understanding.
We ran through a whole gamut of possibilities of what constitutes data to try to whittle down our understanding even further; and then compared which type of data might be easier to represent or analyse.

After much to-ing and fro-ing we took another snapshot of our understanding.

Information still features highly (as does funky?!?!) but there's a broader range of ideas now.

At this point, once again I've thrown them in the deep end. I directed them to the CIA World Factbook to collect data to build a data display comparing Australia with 9 other countries in Asia.  That was my whole instruction. A couple of looks of disbelief later (not sure if that was from the ridiculously ambiguous task instruction or mention of using CIA data) they all scurried away to get into it.
Asia, and Australia's place in it, is a topic we've just started this week. It's tied loosely to a big unit on Ancient India we'll be doing with our whole team later in the term but we're starting more contemporarily and broadly.  
General knowledge of which countries are actually in Asia was pretty scant. I will admit to being surprised, but gave everyone the benefit of the doubt because we've only just started learning about it.  Call me mean, but I let them all struggle with finding the relevant countries. A few had a look at the map on the wall, some others pulled out old-school atlases, a couple searched for 'lists of Asian countries' on Google. The rest turned to me. And I smiled and asked them to have another think.  Ha!

As a group they were pretty tech savvy so the act of making a data display wasn't a particularly big challenge. Choosing the right data display for the data they'd collected is a slightly different matter, and prompted some rich discussions.

How do you teach data and statistics?

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 2 Know the content and how to teach it
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning


  1. I don't teach it but I do it every single day. I'm kind of stuck in a rut at the moment and mostly use pivot tables. I'm not overly imaginative with data presentation because it makes sense to me. Finding ways to present so others find it easy to understand is the hardest part.

    1. Hmmmm.... Maybe you could come and talk to the class about how you use data? That could be a very cool link to the real world for them.