Data Collecting in the Classroom

by Margaret Sinclair

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When doing statistics units with grade 9's I used to assign them to conduct a survey and bring in the results so the class could find mean, median and mode, construct histograms and produce graphs. It was often frustrating if the students didn't do their homework or collected such a small survey that trends weren't noticeable. Using data from databases was one solution but it usually didn't hold their attention.

The solution for me has been to collect data from class members as an in-class activity. This produces thirty-two answers (if there are two classes the data can be pooled) to assorted questions, carefuly chosen to ensure that some data will be categorical, some will provide integer results and some will offer continuous results. At the same time I include some questions that require students to get out of their seats and cooperate with others in groups, such as counting situps, timing pulses, and measuring jumps. This has made the activity a favorite with my students.


As you can see from the table below, I write three questions in 8 groups, A to H - one a categorical question such as "What's your favorite animal?", one such as "How many phones do you have?" that will produce integer answers, and one such as "How many centimeters can you jump?" that produces continuous data. I divide the class into eight groups of four and call them A, B, C, .... H. Each student answers all 24 questions. Group A is then given all the answers to the questions in section A, Group B gets the answers in B, and so forth.



1. What is your favorite colour? 1. What is your favourite pop?
2. How many first cousins do you have? 2. How many phones do you have in your home?
3. How many centimeters long is your foot? 3. How many centimeters around is your fist?



1. What is your favourite TV show?
1. What is your favourite flavour of potato chips?
2. How many pops do you drink in 1 week? 2. How many hours of TV do you watch in 1 week?
3. How long is your armreach - from fingertips of one hand to fingertips of the other? 3. How wide can you spread your hand? (Measure from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your baby finger.)



1. What is your favourite animal? 1. What is your favourite subject?
2. How many minutes does it take you to travel back and forth each week 2. How many letters are in your whole name?
3. What size are your shoes?
3. How high can you jump? (Straight up, feet together.)



1. What is your favourite sport? 1. Who is your favourite movie star?
2. How many pens, pencils and markers do you have with you today? 2. How many people are in your family?
3. How many beats per minute is your pulse?


3. How many sit-ups can you do in one minute? (They must be complete - head to the floor, then site up and touch your feet.)

In groups, the students tally the results and then determine the most effective ways to present and analyse their data. They are required to use at least three different display techniques and to find any measures of central tendency that are appropriate. (This provides a good opportunity to point out that you can't have a mean "favorite animal.") The groups then present their finished projects to the class.

This unit usually takes three classes to complete, and lends itself nicely to spreadsheet and group work. The first day we collect the data; the second day the students work in their groups on their graphs, charts and calculations; and the third day is for presentations.

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Margaret Sinclair