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Growing database

Teaching new students about classification often involves collecting and tabulating a great deal of data on each student. Variations in height, hand span, shoe size, arm length, and so on are commonly used as both a means of creating keys and as a tool to create various charts. This information is often lost as students move up through the school.

At our school, the increased use of spreadsheets and network servers now means that it can be saved and collated not just for one year but for passing on to teachers as the class moves up through the school. Simple graphs can be plotted - for example, individual or class average heights over several years. The level of analysis can match the pupils' sophistication and data gathered in science can be used in other subjects such as maths, ICT and computing.

A hypothesis can be set in the first year and tested several years later - for example: "there is a direct relationship between shoe size in first year and height in fourth year"; or "the rate of increase in height over four years is proportional to the rate of increase in arm span". It may even be possible to make predictions about an individual's height based on the information gathered over several years.

Findlay Rush, head of physics, Glenrothes High School, Fife

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