When I hear “data analysis” I immediately think of statistics and then I get the shakes and flashbacks. I had to take Statistics for Sociology majors when I was at University and it was simply the hardest class I ever took. I used all of my tried-and-true strategies for school success. I arrived early. I sat in the front. I came prepared. I took lengthy notes. I met with my teacher outside of class for extra help. I studied like crazy. At the end of it all, I eked out a C by the skin of my teeth.
So, teaching data analysis to young children seems completely contradictory to me. How do we look at data sets and make sense of it?
Young children need to collect data that is meaningful to them. This can be in the form of scientific inquiry such as; how many sprinkler days did we have this summer? or, what is everyone’s favorite kind of juice? The data can then be collected and categorized into data sets. Usually, we want to explore ideas that yield manageable data sets for young children (2 – 3 sets, ideally). In the case of favorite juices, children may say orange, apple, grape and possibly one other.
You should tally their responses by using visual cues that can be read by pre-readers. You might draw three glasses on the top of the tag board with one filled with orange, one filled with yellow and one filled with purple. The colors will visually represent the juice and will make sense to the children.
Under each choice, the children can write their names to represent their choice, or if they are not ready to write, you could put their photos under their choices. You have now created a usable data set that is analyzed by the children. The analysis should be readily seen and understood by the children. You can ask questions of the data, for example; Which juice is the favorite amongst our group? Which juice is the least favorite? How many children chose each kind? etc.
Next week we will continue looking at data analysis and the young child.