Playing Around with Data

Brothers Sisters Casio ActivityI’ve been exploring the different types of graphs that can be constructed using data lists and the Casio graphing calculators. Data collecting is a powerful way to help students use mathematics in a real-world context. It provides students the opportunity to collect data that is interesting and relevant to them, and then make decisions about that data, such as what graph best supports the data, what questions can we answer from the data, what predictions, if any, can we make, etc. Students apply so many mathematical skills when working with data. What to do with the data once it is collected is obviously a major part of the process, and being able to visualize the data to help answer questions requires students to understand what the different types of graphs mean and show about the data, and, depending on the question asked, which graphical representation is best.

To help me in my exploration, I used one of the activities from our Fostering Mathematical Thinking in the Middle Grades with Casio Technology resource book (Dr. Bob Horton, 2013), as it has some great real-world activities and sample data that allowed me to explore a variety of graphs. Casio calculators can create many graphical representations from a single set of data. All the calculators function the same way, so that’s nice – if I know how to use one, I know how to use them all. Obviously, the Prizm, aside from color, also has some extra features, but no matter which graphing calculator you have (9750GII, 9860GII, Prizm), you can create all these different types of graphs and statistical representations.

The activity I chose, Brothers & Sisters, is one where the data collected from the students in the class is the number of siblings they have, and the two lists created are the numbers of siblings (0 – the highest # in class) and frequency of each.  From this data, we explore box plots, pie graphs, histograms and then measures of central tendency. I have attached a PDF of the activity at the end of this post for those of you who might be interested in trying it with your own students. It includes the keystrokes for the Prizm, but as I said before, all Casio graphing calculators use the same keystrokes, so even the $50 version can do powerful things.

I am not going to explain the whole activity, since I have attached the PDF that you can peruse at your own leisure. But, I did create a short video clip using the 9860GII version of the graphing calculator, to show the steps. I started with sample data already entered so that I could get right to the various graphs more quickly.

Start playing with data with your students, if you have not done so already. Provide students an opportunity to collect their own data, make decisions on how to represent and use the data, and see how much math happens!

PDF: Brothers Sisters Casio Activity

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