Fourth grade students are engaged in an investigation to explain changes in a deer population over time. The teacher gave the students data in the form of a data table and asked students to represent the data in a way that made sense to them. Students used their representations to explain what happened to the deer population over time.
Focus Practice: Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SEP4)
Task 1: Recognizing patterns in the data
Prior to the clips shown, Ms. H presented her students with a data table along with specific prompts to guide her students in recognizing multiple patterns in the data.
1. In what year was the deer herd the smallest? How many deer were in the herd?
2. In what year was the deer herd the largest? How many deer were in the herd?
3. Between what two years (next to each other on the chart) did the deer herd increase the most?
4. Between what two years (next to each other on the chart) did the deer herd decrease the most?
Students then engaged in a small group discussion guided by the following prompt, “What patterns do you notice in the data about the changes in the deer population?”
Task 2: Representing the Data
Ms. H then showed her students a variety of ways that data can be represented—time lines, pictographs, bar graphs, line plots, and maps. Ms. H then encouraged her students organize the data in a visual form that would help their audience understand and recognize the patterns that students saw. Students then discussed each representation, “Which graph best tells the story of the data about the deer on the Kaibab Plateau?”
Task 3: Making sense of the data
Students are presented with two stories of the deer population. The teacher asks the students to choose which story that they think matches their interpretation of the data, “Which story would result in the data we have seen in the table and the graph?” Students then used a claim/evidence/reasoning chart to provide evidence to support their answers.
1. How would you have responded to Ethan's idea?
2. How did representing data in different ways give students new perspectives for interpreting the data?
Analyzing & Interpreting Data
Once collected data must be presented in a form that can reveal any patterns and relationships that allows results to be communicated to others. Because raw data as such have little meaning, a major practice of scientists is to organize and interpret data though tabulating, graphing, or statistical analysis. Such analysis can bring out the meaning of data—and their relevance—so that they may be used as evidence to understand the mechanisms that lead to and explain observed phenomena
Task 1: Recognizing Patterns
Part of recognizing patterns is the intent of questioning whether the pattern persists and developing questions as to what might be the reason for the pattern. Ethan identified a numerical pattern in the data, which the teacher does not get right away, but persists in trying to help Ethan make his thinking visible. For example, we finally come to see Ethan’s pattern, but the question remains as to whether it persists. Malia also noticed a pattern in one part of the data (the years of recording), but was unsure of the reason.
Giving students time to recognize patterns in the data prompted students to ask questions to explain the observed data. For example, Tyler considered lack of food, while Kylie considered hunting, as potential reasons for the observed declines.
Task 2: Representing Patterns
Peggy asked her students to make a visual representation that could help them tell the story found in the data. They were encouraged to use a method that made sense to them. Making all of the students’ thinking visible and honoring multiple visual representations of the patterns in the data provided opportunities to inspire others’ thinking and build on others thinking to come to a greater understanding of the story the data is telling.
Ethan and Kylie’s group visually represented the patterns by annotating the data table. In Julia’s group representation, we see multiple revisions of their visual representation. Their group encountered a time and space constraint, which prompted them to modify their representation. Mikayla’s group represented the data in a traditional bar model. Peggy flipped her model vertically to show that it was now similar to the vertical bar graph discussed earlier. Thus, showing how the representations could be used to make sense of the data set.
Task 3: Making sense of the data
Mikayla cited similarities in the information found in one of the scenarios as evidenced that the story matched the data. However, her classmate Alex recognized that something was not quite right. He identified similarities between the two scenarios, which required additional evidence to support their decision. Both students reread the scenarios and examine the patterns in the data or evidence. In doing so, students build an understanding of the deer population phenomenon using the evidence from the data and the written scenario.
Watch the classroom video from Peggy's perspective as she explains her decisions and highlights features and things for teachers to notice when supporting students’ analysis and interpretation of the data.