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A Data-Driven World

Understanding the charts and graphs in the media these days can be tricky, to say the least. Statistics can be displayed in numerous ways to lead, or mislead, a person’s thinking about a topic. Case in point: a turn in the stock market by 4 points is very different than a turn by 4%. Learning to analyze data is an important skill that children need to learn so they can make decisions based on accurate information in the future.

Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

Analyzing, collecting, and organizing data is something even very small children can begin to understand. It is also such a great way for kids to make connections with math in the real world. One thing I liked to do in my classroom during the first week of school was to read Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes. The character Chrysanthemum, ends the first day of school apprehensive because of her name, which happens to be very long. In fact, her classmate pointed out that it consists of 13 letters, which is half of the alphabet. Poor Chrysanthemum! This book always led classes to a great discussion about our names. We collected data about all of the names of the students in the class. We looked at the number of letters in our names, the number of names that start with the same letter, and the number of vowels in each name. It was great for them to recognize that the same set of data could be analyzed in so many different ways. It was also a great way to learn each other’s names that first week!

Never Too Early to Build Analytical Data Skills in Kids

This is just one small example of how kids can experience data, yet there are so many daily opportunities for them to gain practice. Food nutritional labels, price comparisons at the store, and even the number of green candies in a package are all easy ways to help kids recognize and classify data in their world. In fact, as election season comes about, having a class vote on their favorite color, time of day, or even their favorite Halloween costume can bring real data into the forefront of a child’s eyes. It is imperative that kids are able to discern the data they encounter so they can be savvy in this data-driven world.

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