creating double bar graphs to compare winter olympics medal counts

Posted on: March 2nd, 2014 by jnovakowski

The grades 5 and 6 class at Garden City has been learning about bar graphs. As part of a collaborative inquiry amongst a small group of teachers at the school, we have been looking at how iPad technology can enhance mathematical communication and engagement.

This week we provided the students with the medal counts charts from the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. The students were welcome to use another data set or quickly create their own survey to collect some data, but the focus was on the creation of graphs using the iPads so I think all of the students just used the medal counts for their data set.

The students used the screencasting app doceri to create the graphs, after a short discussion about when and why you would use a double bar graphs. We reviewed the parts of a graph and then students worked in small groups to create their graphs. There was some frustration in labelling the axes and the students wished there was a typing/text feature that was easy to use.

The students’ explanations in the following screencasts reveal a few things – misuse of mathematical vocabulary in labelling axes, understanding of the components of a graph to convey information clearly and a hint at the purpose of bar graphs. We didn’t provide specific criteria about what the screencasts needed to have and if we had, we might have received more consistent information included in all the screencasts. The students seemed to have a good sense about what information they should try and convey though, without our explicit guidance.

And yes, the students could have just as easily created these graphs using paper and written out their analyses instead of using a screencasting app. After introducing apps like doceri, they become part of a student’s repertoire and hopefully, they will be given choices in how they might represent and share their learning, and those who want to use paper and pencil can and those who want to use a screencasting app can do so or there might also be an option 3!

When we are assessing mathematical understanding, does it matter how students show us what they know? I don’t think so. I think our role as teachers is to make sure students have many opportunities to show what they know about something, in ways that work for them. We want all our students to be successful and screencasting apps like doceri allow students who may have difficulties writing their thinking down on paper a way to show what they know, using visual supports and diagrams to enhance their explanations.

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