Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

TinkerPlots Turns Students into Data Analysts

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

TinkerPlots Turns Students into Data Analysts

Article excerpt

How do we approach the teaching and learning of data management in North American elementary schools?

Tom got the following marks out of 10 on a series of quizzes: 6, 7, 9, 8, 5, 8, 8, 7, 7, 8. What is the mean, median and mode for Tom's quiz marks?

This type of uninspired data management problem typifies what students, teachers and parents would encounter in most grade 3-8 textbooks and classrooms. The ensuing mathematical activity is void of conversation, and involves more computation with numbers than reasoning about data.

In a more innovative textbook or classroom, students might be using spreadsheets to represent data graphically and compute the various measures of central tendency for a set of data. But for whom are spreadsheets really designed? They assume an expert adult user with very sophisticated algebraic reasoning skills. Is this our typical grade 4-8 student?

Enter TinkerPlots. Developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation at the University of Massachusetts, in collaboration with four NSF-funded middle school math projects, TinkerPlots is an inquiry-based software construction set of graph pieces. Students can order, stack and separate icons to eventually build their own plots for analyzing data.

Mathematics teachers who are striving to teach students data analysis in line with recommendations of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Curriculum Standards find TinkerPlots to be especially helpful.

In the last two years, several grade 4-8 teachers from Ottawa have been using the beta version of TinkerPlots with their students. The teachers quickly became comfortable with the fundamentals of TinkerPlots, and there now exists a series of five narrated online video clips showing the program's basics and capturing many of the teachers' introductory experiences. …

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