As educators, everywhere we turn, we hear and read about the importance of helping kids develop 21st-century skills, defined as the broad set of abilities, work habits and character traits that are necessary to succeed in today’s world and workforce. We know creativity and collaboration are at the top of this skill list, yet the more we read, the clearer it becomes that one critical 21st-century skill involves developing data literacy. Data literacy is the ability to read, work with, analyze and argue with data. With a quick Google search, it is easy to find many article titles, like “Data Literacy: A Key Skill in the Future Workplace” and “Data Literacy: A Critical Skill for the 21st Century.” The obligation to teach the importance of understanding data to our young learners is considerable and at the forefront of some of our strategic planning.
"The ability to take data - to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it's going to a hugely important skills in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids."
- Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google
So what does teaching about data look like in Lower School? How do we teach the importance of data collection and analysis? We turn to 4th graders to showcase some of their most recent projects. In 4th grade, students are introduced to data collection by revisiting accurate linear measurements to the nearest quarter inch, and then collecting height measurements of 4th graders, 2nd graders and 1st graders. Students learn how to synthesize and plot data in organized ways, compare data sets, and answer questions related to the data.
After this introduction, 4th graders elevate their learning by creating their own collections. They begin to understand how to choose a high-interest data question, gather necessary materials for collection, and organize their obtained data. Answering questions about data, noting patterns and trends, using data to predict future trends and comparing data are important aspects of this work.
But learning about data doesn’t wait until 4th grade! This week, 1st graders engaged in high-interest data collection, by critically thinking about the spaces in our new building. They asked questions about these new spaces and used tally marks and picture graphs to chart classmate responses. The next phase of this data collection will be organizing their findings and brainstorming ways to graph the data that can be easily interpreted by others.
The notion of early data literacy is woven throughout the units in our Investigations Math Curriculum to ensure proper exposure and distributive review throughout students’ Lower School math experience. It will be an exciting challenge to remain nimble in our teaching to stay current with our rapidly evolving world!
Enjoy the long holiday weekend, and I look forward to seeing everyone back next Wednesday!