Making Data Beautiful

Making sense of student ERB test scores on a spread sheet can be daunting for some, and after staring at those numbers for a while, make one’s eyes a little blurry. Turning those numbers or any kind of numerical data into something more concrete, like a pie chart or bar graph makes it much easier to read and grasp. Taking it one step further and pairing up with other data could reveal some interesting patterns. For example, with the test scores I mentioned, when comparing them to other schools, what if we were able to include data on the size of the school as well. Would the results change? What is the statistical significance when comparing a school with one class per grade to one that might have 10 classes per grade. Does the sample size change the data set in a way that might be interesting? There are many other ways one can think about data and there has been quite a rise in what is called an infographic: taking the data, adding some design to it, and representing it in a way that can be visualized so it can be easier to understand.

In his TED talk below, David McCandless draws interesting conclusions from complex datasets and pairing them together. So instead of looking at simply what country has the biggest military budget, he might pair that with the country’s GDP and suddenly, the results are quite different. He also has a blog worth checking out called Information Is Beautiful. It’s definitely worth checking out.





2 thoughts on “Making Data Beautiful

  1. Anthony, Adam used to run a business that took sets of data and joined them via database. I bet we could do that with Epiphany if the basic data sets are available.

    As a parent, I look at the data somewhat differently. What are my child’s strengths and deficits? How can I take her inherent strengths and use those to bolster the problem areas? In other words, how can her writing skills be used to help her understand math concepts?

    I guess it’s the difference between thinking strategically on a school level vs. on an individual child level. I’m academically interested in the first, but personally invested in the second.

    I do think the influence of the individual teacher probably makes as much of a difference as overall school size. That would be a tough one to break out, though, wouldn’t it?

  2. Thanks for the comments, Martha. I think your view of the data is perfect. I try to do that as well as a teacher with my individual kids which is why I like that our test results come before the middle of the school year. You can look at that data and actually do something about it – like providing extra support in some areas and providing challenges in other. I still have to look at the whole class to see if there are any gaps in general as well and what I can do to ensure I do my best to meet those needs. I also like to find out what my students’ current passions are as well, as I think that is a great way to keep kids motivated and engaged.

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