Data diet sites to statisfy

10th October 2003 at 01:00
Q The numeracy strategy objectives in the strand for handling data teaching programme are:

lSolve a problem by representing, extracting and interpreting data in tables, graphs, charts and diagrams, including those generated by computer, frequency tables and bar charts with grouped discrete data.

lFind the mode and range of a set of data. Begin to find the median and mean of a set of data.

I find it difficult to come up with ideas that will stimulate interest and excitement with my Year 6s. My favourite colour again! I'm bored so they must be bored too. I have never liked statistics; it was boring when I was at school. Do you know of any interesting ideas that other primary schools are using for this age group?

A The world of statistics is about to change for you and your pupils forever.

A free website to promote understanding of statistics was created by the Royal Statistical Society in 2000 and is continually updated. It is based at the Centre for Statistical Education, Nottingham Trent University, and is led by Professor Neville Davies. The site is at: www.censusatschool.ntu.ac.uk and another site to be launched next Tuesday is www.experimentsatschool.org.uk

CensusAtSchool is all about bringing the fun back into data. Children can enter data about themselves into the online questionnaires and compare themselves with children from all over the UK and other countries such as South Africa and Australia.

They can then use this information in their data handling activities at school. So what is the favourite colour for our school's Year 6? Is this different from other Year 6s in this country and abroad? What about shoe sizes? And so on.

Doreen Connor, co-ordinator for CensusAtSchool, says: "Enjoying working and playing with the real data leads naturally to the learning of correct ways of data handling."

Carrying out investigations should be like opening a really exciting book that you can't put down because you want to see what happens next. But the language of the book has to be accessible to you.

I suppose a parallel is the accessibility of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the current TV series. It's in modern English and the setting is contemporary, whereas for most people the language of the original is barely readable. Similarly, an understanding of data is necessary for any meaningful analysis and essential for maintaining interest.

We now have powerful tools that can develop our understanding of experimental design through ICT. The experiments available on the ExperimentAtSchool website covers other subject areas, including geography, physical and life sciences and caters for the seven to 19 age range.

For those who feel they need encouragement to use the materials there is a training course available using the CensusAtSchool data.

An example of one of the resources on the website is a worksheet called "Hanging out the Dirty Data" which teaches the importance of "cleaning the data", dealing with obviously wrong or false information. For instance under "School Year" someone has entered "0.5" instead of "Year 5". The data that on the site isn't necessarily "clean", which encourages pupils to check it carefully.

There are also teacher worksheets to increase the confidence of staff.

Using this site will help you and your pupils discover the beauty of statistics.

A Bar Chart of a Poem (above) is also available as an A4 picture at www.mathagonyaunt.co.uk Wendy Fortescue-Hubbard is a teacher and game inventor. She has been awarded a three-year fellowship by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) www.nesta.org.uk to spread maths to the masses. Email your questions to Mathagony Aunt at teacher@tes.co.uk Or write to TES Teacher, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX

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