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Turning 5th Graders into Data Explorers

Professor Michael Posner knows a lot about the way that data can be used — and taught. An AFS parent and professor of statistics and data science at Villanova University, Michael volunteered to guest teach a lesson about data to a class of fifth graders about finding answers to questions using data.

First, the students had to gather data to work with. Michael distributed a survey with questions ranging from how tall they were to how many hours they slept at night. Once they had completed it, Michael introduced the students to CODAP, a data exploration and visualization program that let the students play with a data set based on survey responses that they provided.

“I like doing math a lot, but even I don’t want to do it all the time,” explains Michael. “That’s why I can ask the computer to do things for me. It can count up the data and let me see it in different ways.”

Using CODAP, the students were able to compare the results of the questions to find information like averages and percentages of the class. Then, Michael even opened it up to data that that had been collected as part of the Census at School project, which has anonymous data on 5th grade students from across the United States.

With Michael’s guidance and students’ excitement to learn CODAP, the class was able to find answers to questions about the average number of hours students slept in class (“8.13 hours!”) and the ratio of girls to boys in the class (61% – 39%).

“And look at that,” says Michael with a smile. “You guys are already data explorers.”


Michael Posner demonstrates the use of CODAP to a 5th grade math class.
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