Bars, Pies and making gates.

It was during the week that I read an article in the Guardian titled How to teach graphs – data handling lesson ideas and decided to write a waffle on some of my ideas about teaching data handling (or statistics). I also mentioned some of these ideas in a waffle about mathematical SODAs.


My favourite type of bar!

My favourite type of bar!

When teaching mathematics at university, I always enjoy teaching the data handling section of the module – and yes, I am going to continue to call it data handling, despite the changes within the new National Curriculum. Mathematics is taught most effectively when it is placed in a context or real life situation for the children and data handling is one of those topics which allows this to happen naturally. Although the skills associated with data handling will always have to be explored within a mathematics lesson, the actual application of the skills can be completed within a number of lessons, providing a very good cross curriculum approach.

  • Presenting the problem – Many lessons associated with data handling ultimate end up with the children parading around the classroom asking each other what their favourite “insert suitable noun here” is. Although this is sometimes valid to demonstrate the success criteria for effective collection of data, this should not be used as the start of the application lesson. Children should be presented with a problem in which the collection of data is needed to provide the solution. The one I always talk about in my session is the idea of a party happening and the children have to decide which balloons they need to buy for it. This would require the children to be democratic and ‘poll’ the children on shape, colour and even content – air or helium. Once a member of the class asked everyone for their favourite football teams in order to choose balloon colours which represent the colour of their home football strip. I had to suddenly choose a favourite team in order to complete the survey…think I chose Spurs? are they any good?

  • “I had to suddenly support a favourite team in order to complete the survey…think I chose Spurs?”

  • Pies and Bars– One important aspect of data handling which I think is often overlooked is the range of different ways to present data. There exists a range of different types of graphs and charts for the children to engage with. These are especially prolific during elections and watching any news item covering an election show these effectively. These also exist across the internet and computer programs. In order for the children to be able to select the correct type of graph to display their data it is important for them to see what is available. An interesting activity with these is to create a series of posters or a booklet about the positives and negatives about each type of data display. This can include what kind of specific data the chart is best to display which creates effective success criteria for the children when choosing which one to use with their data.

  • Use of technology – When I was teaching there was a range of programs which could be used to display the data which the children had collected. These ranged from 2Graph which included pictograms and bar charts (2Simple) to the in depth range of graphs within excel. Nowadays, technology can support not only the displaying of data, but also the collection and sharing for analysis. Using online programs such as StrawPoll and PollDaddy, data can be collected through the virtual learning environment allowing the possibility for a larger sample size. Data can be collected not only from within the class, but also throughout the school and, with careful promotion, even from other schools both within and outside the UK. Using mobile technologies will also allow data to be collected via applications such as ‘eClicker’ and Socrative reducing the time spent on the collection allowing more focus on the analysis and interpretation of the results.

  • Of course this is not the complete list of how to teach data handling effectively but it details some of the important considerations for me. The use of technology will certainly impact on the collection and displaying of data although it is important to ensure that the children still have the opportunity to complete these tasks manually in order to understand the process and key strategies.

    Are there any IT programs which you would recommend for data collection? Have you got any lessons which you have completed which have been successful? I’ve started a topic forum post in the teaching ideas forum for anyone who is willing to share or you can just add a comment in the box below.

    I’m guessing that many schools will or will be breaking up for summer soon so don’t forget to read my waffle about end of term activities and what to do over the summer. Have a great summer and remember I will be waffling throughout so hopefully I will catch you later.