Data Detectives- the finale!

OK, so this post sat as a draft for a while! I had to get my reports done! Sorry for the delay....

So, you may have seen that we've been inquiring into data in math. It was my first time to teach data through inquiry and it's been a very interesting experience! A lot of learning along the way, for both my students and me! This will be the last post about it. You can read the first post HERE and the second one HERE.

So this was the third day and I planned to explicitly teach them about how we can represent data through graphs. First, I referred back to two student work samples and asked,
"Which is easier to understand? Why?"

Students readily said that the one o the right was easier to read for two reasons:
1) it had pictures, and
2)  the 3-column chart at the bottom was organized.
I explained that the student pair who had shown their data that way had essentially created a graph, or a picture that shows how different information is connected (a first-grade definition), in this case hair color and numbers of students.
After talking about how a graph is organized into columns and rows, I briefly sketched one on the dry erase board.

We discussed that most students had used or seen graphs before in kindergarten, but a lot of them struggled to remember. I was met with some "Oh yeah"s and some blank stares- it was a mixed bag.

Not one to be discouraged, I pressed on..."So what do we learn about the data from this graph? What does it tell us about the people in our class?" Students readily recognized that most people had black hair in our class. I referred to the second think sheet I made, and modeled how to write summary statements using language like "most", "least', "less than", and "greater than".
Click if you want a copy!

I decided to send them on their way with the mission of creating a graph that would effectively express their data, as well writing a brief conclusion summarizing their findings. I was curious to see what they would come up with, and what more I would need to teach. Here are a couple of end products:

This pair got it! They produced an easy-to-understand graph that even included a title.
This pair even color-coded to reflect their topic: eye color.

Here's their summary- simple, but correct.

Judging from students' work, I need to teach more about how to design a graph. I expected that because I didn't spend a lot of time introducing it, I just set them free to try it out. I wanted to see what they would come up with on their own when not presented with a ready-made graph worksheet. I think I'll show them how to use graph paper to easily and neatly create their own graphs. We'll also transfer this learning by practicing how to read other graphs, and analyze them to draw conclusions.

A final word... asking students to inquire and try to figure things out without direct instruction form the teacher can get messy, and messy is uncomfortable. There's frustration along the way for the students AND the teacher, maybe even more so for the teacher! I had to release some control and organization and "play it by ear" a bit, but in the end, I think it was a thoughtful, meaningful experience for my students. Believe it or not, I had a couple kids bring in data that they had collected at home- on their own! Don't believe me, check it out!

(Please note that while these students endorse data collection, they did not receive any monetary compensation for their efforts) hee, hee, hee!

Pretty cool, right? So now I pretty excited about math inquiry and I'm actually planning to go to a workshop next September- I'll keep you informed! How do you feel about math inquiry?
Signature photo ScreenShot2013-04-26at54143PM.png


  1. This looks like a Fab-U-Lous lesson! So impressed with their organized graphs! So happy to be your newest follower!

  2. Hey Karli! This is awesome- we're just entering into Statistics now and my school is all about inquiry learning so I'll be reading through all three of your blog posts about this! I teach older kids but I'm sure I'll learn a heap from your posts!

    x Serena x
    Magic Mistakes & Mayhem

    1. Thanks, Serena! Math inquiry is still a new adventure for me :)

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I read your about me and it so interesting!! I will be following you along on your adventures!

  4. What a great post! I'm visual, so I love all your pictures! :O)
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  5. Wow!! I can't believe what your firsties are doing! I read so many upper elementary blogs that it always blows me away when I see what the students can do at lower levels. I think this inquiry approach is SO valuable and good for you sticking with it. I know it is difficult to give up control! Love all the pictures:)
    Fourth Grade Flipper


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