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Spring SAVY 2015, Week 1 – Statistics Smorgasbord (5th/6th Grade)

Posted by on Monday, February 9, 2015 in SAVY blog.

Our class had a great start to investigating the world of statistics! Statistics is a problem-solving process that seeks to answer questions through data. Looking at numerical data in the right way can help us make better decisions in order to make our lives better.

The students began their inquiry with a discussion of what statistics is and what it is not. Statistics is not just a series of calculations to be performed in order to get a single right answer. Instead, it is a process that begins with asking good questions that can be answered with data. Deciding what data are needed to answer the question and how that data are to be collected comes next. Once the data have been analyzed, the results of the investigation must be interpreted and communicated effectively through pictures, words, and numbers – a truly interdisciplinary exercise. Unlike typical mathematics, good statistics questions often have more than one correct response!

Our first investigation this morning had students survey their classmates. Each group decided what questions they wanted answered; they generated topics as varied as your favorite language, the state you were born in, and how many hours of sleep you got last night. After collecting the data, the students had to choose what information they thought was important and how they wanted to communicate their results. Colorful pie charts and bar graphs abounded as we discussed their advantages and disadvantages in conveying information. The students learned that their results usually lead to additional questions that they want to answer!

Following up on the classmate survey, the students next completed a brief series of questions about nuclear power. Half the class received questions that tried to lead them to be in favor of nuclear power while the other half had questions that tried to guide them to be against it. A lively and insightful discussion on how to ask questions and collecting data in ways that reduced bias ensued. Data are not as useful when the responses can be affected by the wording of the questions and selective sampling of a population.

My TA Sunny and I have been impressed by our students’ willingness to participate, ability to work together, thoughtful responses, and asking good questions when they don’t fully understanding something. We both look forward to next Saturday’s sampling from the Statistics Smorgasbord!

Joe Meko