Help students figure out their world to improve skills in data analysis for academic, personal, and professional success.
As technology continues to overtake traditional methods of performing tasks, students who don’t know how to analyze data will be at a great disadvantage when they enter the world of work. At the heart of many math problems, both in the classroom and real world, is data analysis.
Why is Data Analysis a 21st Century Skill?
In the digital age, cultivating students’ data analysis capabilities might seem to be a waste of time, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Though calculators and programs that automate mathematical processes might provide fast answers, these tools should be used as complementary methods used for fact checking the work that students perform using knowledge and understanding.
At its most basic definition, data is a collection of information. Often, data is presented in ratios, percentages, fractions, graphs, and tables. Developing skills in data analysis is important for students as they will need to know how to calculate and compare figures during post-graduate training and in future careers.
Most importantly, students need to understand how to identify misrepresentations of data and recognize when incorrect conclusions are being drawn from data to be able to navigate the real world. Data analysis skills can help students make better decisions by allowing them to decode the barrage of information they encounter and identify trends.
Helping Students Do Better with Data
Prepare students for success in the future by developing greater understanding of data analysis.
1. Daily News in Data
Encourage students to remain current with world news while cultivating an understanding of data. From reporting on changes in the stock market to changing costs in a variety of industries, students will find different data figures available to gain a comprehensive understanding of the different ways analysis is used to make decisions.
The classic activity where teachers have students look through publications like USA Today for misleading representations of data is classic for a reason—in an effort to simplify data and make it easier to understand, publishers can sometimes introduce errors or inadvertently skew the data. Other times this is done intentionally to make data appear as though it supports an author’s viewpoint, position, or argument. Allowing students to explore these misrepresentations of data can not only improve their skills in data analysis, but also build critical thinking skills as they decide for themselves what the data is saying and determine the author’s reasons for the misrepresentation.
2. Compare Current Event Figures
After finding current news stories as described above, challenge students to research data from stories covering similar events in the past. Students should compare previous figures with current data and determine the events that caused the shift. For an additional challenge, have students forecast their own changes in data for the future based on educated hypotheses and potential causes.
3. Oceanic Data Analysis
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association offers a variety of exercises that incorporate data analysis into ocean science. Whether forecasting weather patterns caused by El Niño, examining rising sea levels, or analyzing water quality in estuaries, teachers can use these activities to grow data analysis skills and help students learn more about the state of the world’s oceans to incorporate more environmental exercises into the classroom.
Teachers who regularly incorporate lessons that promote 21st century skills will have students who are better prepared for life after high school. Through learning different approaches to data analysis, students will develop a greater understanding about how to think critically without technology.
Explore our entire series on 21st century skills here!
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