Inquiry Based Math Lesson on Data Management (Guest Blog Post)

I’d like to introduce a guest blogger this evening,  AnneMarie, from Looking From Third to Fourth. She teaches grade 3/4 in Ontario. She’s written an excellent and detailed data management blog post. Enjoy!


This year I am part of my board’s Junior Numeracy Network, where I work with math consultants and other Grade 4-6 teachers from other schools to develop, implement and discuss inquiry-based math lessons. In between our sessions we have to have another teacher and consultant watch us teach an inquiry-based lesson to discuss at our next workshop.

As I was about to begin my data management unit I decided to do a formative assessment lesson to kick off our unit. Previously when teaching in primary classrooms I have always started by making a class graph based on a survey questions – to engage the junior students I decided to change it up a bit. Here’s what I did.

First we played a classroom minute to win-it like game. Students were giving some conversation hearts (left over from our Valentine’s Math!). They were given 1 minute to stack them as high as they could. Each time it fell they were to start over – but record the height of the tower before it fell.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Her stack just fell over!
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Page to record data.

When the 1st minute was up I recorded their data (only at that point we were calling it scores) on our Brightlinks whiteboard.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

I was purposefully recording their numbers in an unorganized manner. Once it was up I asked them a few questions: Which ones were Preston’s? Who made taller towers the girls or the boys? Which number is on the board the most?  The students all agreed that we could not answer some of those questions just by looking at the numbers, and when someone told me what number was up there the most and I asked are you sure they quickly said well no, I said can you prove it and they started to hesitate. So we quickly reached our first pieces of consolidation:
*you need to organize information so that it is easy to read
*information that we collect is called data (yes they actually remembered it from the year before – they must have had a great teacher : ) ).

We started again, they had another minute to build and record data. Before I collected it from them we talked about ways to organize it. Some students tried to apply multiplication since that is what we just finished but a few came up with a chart. I was supposed to use tally marks but didn’t in my haste to collect.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Next, I gave students paper strips (all the same length). They were given 3 minutes to create the longest paper chain they could. Some students worked in partners, 2 worked alone. I did this to help introduce fairness/bias later on. I got this idea from a measurement activity I found on Pinterest and modified for this activity.
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

They labeled their first loop and put them away. The first part of our lesson was over.

That afternoon I had the students get their paper chains and bring them to our carpet area. I did not give direction about how to put them down. They all started putting them down in the same direction and one eager student started to line them up – but I stopped him for a minute and asked him to let people decide where to put their chains.

Once we had all the chains we talked about how they were displayed – were they easy to compare. The students decided they all needed to line up at one starting point so we could compare them. Yes, consolidation point 3 – our display need to be organized – in this case with a starting line.
Now we could easily compare the chains and see which was the longest.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Next we decided that our display reminded us an awful lot of a graph (although first we said grid and could not come up with bar graph or pictograph). I then asked them to identify features that were missing – they again focussed on a grid (ugh!). Finally we got to a title – yes – then had to decide where to put it. There was much confusion about whether it could a horizontal or vertical graph – finally we decided both were okay!
After that we finally got to the fact that we needed labels at the bottom to tell whose chain was whose. Yes more consolidation – graphs need titles and labels!
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Then I brought out my chain – and they lost their minds. I made it with 11 x 17 paper instead of their 8.5 x 11. They knew for sure that this was not fair. I asked a lot of questions about why they thought it wasn’t fair. I asked if they knew mine was longer than the rest – just by looking – could they really compare them. We came up with the idea that we needed to count mine to see if it was the longest – and it wasn’t. They were shocked. What did we learn – a graph needs a standard size or scale so that we can read it accurately. Yes, more consolidation.
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

Lastly, they were asked to make their own graph based on our data. They could choose a blank paper or one with a grid section in the middle. Many chose the grid paper – only to realize it was not big enough to count by 1’s for the scale – and some people were stumped. A few said “Oh, I know what to do” (yes, what a great teacher they had last year). And a few just added squares to the top of the grid (who the heck was their teacher last year!).

Our next steps are to use the paper chains and plot our data on a number line. Then we will find the median. We will also find the mode – we have 3 paper chains that have 19 chains and one that has 23 so we will focus on the mode being the answer the one that occured the most not the one with the most chains. Lastly they will make a model of their chain using paper clips and then we will find the mean by averaging out the paper clips from one chain to the next.

During our computer lab I plan on using this website to continue practicing our skills:

If you made it through that long post I would love to have you stop by and visit my blog some time!
Looking From Third to Fourth
Thanks for sharing such an awesome, and in depth lesson!  Any comments or questions for AnneMarie?
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About krystalmills

I am a Grade 7 teacher in Prince Edward Island. Lessons From The Middle shares lessons from the classroom, and occasionally from my life as a mom of two young boys. The goal of this Canadian teacher blog is to share middle school lessons, activities and ideas from my classroom and to collaborate with the wonderful online community of teachers out there as well! Thanks for stopping by!   Find me on Facebook Twitter Pinterest Browse my TPT Store Browse my TN Store

Posted on February 24, 2013, in Guest Blog Posts, Math, Middle School and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Very well done and explained! Thank you.

  2. Very well done blog post. I am a big advocate of STEM programming and I see a big crossover between Data Management and the contributions that fine motor skills have in learning and understanding.

  3. Hi, I’m trying to track down some awesome Canadian teacher bloggers who’d be interested in a blog hop for Canadian kids books with accompanying activities. Would you be interested in participating?