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Data Analysis and the Young Child

by Early Math Counts

When I hear “data analysis” I immediately think of statistics and then I get the shakes and flashbacks.  I had to take Statistics for Sociology majors when I was at University and it was simply the hardest class I ever took.  I used all of my tried-and-true strategies for school success.  I arrived early.  I sat in the front.  I came prepared.  I took lengthy notes.  I met with my teacher outside of class for extra help.  I studied like crazy.  At the end of it all, I eked out a C by the skin of my teeth.

So, teaching data analysis to young children seems completely contradictory to me.  How do we look at data sets and make sense of it?

Young children need to collect data that is meaningful to them.  This can be in the form of scientific inquiry such as; how many sprinkler days did we have this summer?   or, what is everyone’s favorite kind of juice? The data can then be collected and categorized into data sets.  Usually, we want to explore ideas that yield manageable data sets for young children (2 – 3 sets, ideally).  In the case of favorite juices, children may say orange, apple, grape and possibly one other.

You should tally their responses by using visual cues that can be read by pre-readers. You might draw three glasses on the top of the tag board with one filled with orange, one filled with yellow and one filled with purple.  The colors will visually represent the juice and will make sense to the children.

Under each choice, the children can write their names to represent their choice, or if they are not ready to write, you could put their photos under their choices.  You have now created a usable data set that is analyzed by the children.  The analysis should be readily seen and understood by the children.  You can ask questions of the data, for example; Which juice is the favorite amongst our group?  Which juice is the least favorite?  How many children chose each kind? etc.

Next week we will continue looking at data analysis and the young child.


52 Replies to “Data Analysis and the Young Child”

  1. I agree. This is something that teachers would be hesitant to try to teach to young children due to their own experience and understanding. They may look at it as a foreign language and may not understand how to bring it down to an early care and learning level. The example given with choosing which juice is favorite, least, etc. is a good example.

  2. I agree, this can be an uncomfortable lesson to teach but one that the children really enjoy. Using picture cards is a great idea!

    1. I like the idea of taste tests as well. Might be more fun than simply \”remembering\” which juice is they favorite.

  3. I\’ve done similar graphing with apples using red, green, and yellow cutout apples for them to glue on the chart paper.

  4. I love this idea. I make graphs like this all the time with my class. They really love being able to add there name to what they prefer and they really get involved with the learning. Often I find them creating their own graphs after words and collecting data from fellow students.

  5. great idea. I also dread data analysis but I keep forgetting how easy it can be to do with picture charts with kids.

  6. I would agree but our teacher is young and the kids love to see the results of their”votes” the differences between each area!

  7. Our teacher makes it so exciting for the students.They love to see the results of their”votes” and the differences between each area

  8. An easy way to incorporate graphs daily is to make a “Here Today” chart. During circle time, children go up one at a time to find their name or photo and put it in the Here column. The remaining children are placed in the Not Here column.

  9. i enjoy doing graphs with my two year old class. i usually just display the choices in a form of a picture and mark with a letter X next to their name. Having them mark their choice with a sticky note or a sticker might be a good idea for younger ones too. 🙂 Thank you everyone for sharing their thoughts and ideas!

  10. I like all of the ideas discussed here, especially the “Here Today” chart during circle time. Great idea!

  11. We do this in our home daycare with the children but not near enough. It is often at our request. “Let’s track the weather this week” or “What colors are we wearing today”. It would be great to be more spontaneous and chart things that they are interested in. Like maybe the cars they are playing with and naturally sorting! I just need to keep my eyes and ears open, always ready to facilitate.

  12. I, too, do this with the children in my Daycare. We track things such as daily weather, vegetables we eat for lunch, color of shirts we wear, just about any subject the kids can think of. We will draw pictures of each subject and track it on a calendar. Collect the data, put onto a graph that the children can put the pictures on themselves, etc. They love doing these activities and love being able to decide what information we are going to “collect and analyze”!

  13. Keeping it simple is what I think is key. If we go too in depth with it we lose the kids and then they are not gaining anything because they are so confused.

  14. Great Ideas! Especially because children loves hands on activities and data analysis is an important part of math

  15. I appreciate the honesty and hesitation mentioned regarding data analysis , and the importance of collecting data material that is of great interest to the children. I also liked the suggestion about placing a photo under the child’s choice if they are unable to write. This would help in a toddler classroom.

  16. Data analysis is a great example to remember we are exposing kids to life long concepts. They don’t have the preconceived notions of the title as some grown ups do. By making it meaningful and hands on we set the foundation of what is to come, like so much else in early childhood. I really like the concept of the kids having ownership in the information collected. They become much more engaged.

  17. I love teaching math and pictograph’s are a great way to organize data and then you can ask lots of questions this way.

  18. HI my students love to do graphs, the las we did after the Corona virus thing, we did about marbles, we represented how far the marble went (one step, two sets, 3 steps 4 steps or five steps)My children trow their marble from a tunnel, they created with recycle toiled paper, then they trew the marble down the tunnel , and recorded how far the marble went.

  19. I really liked the idea of using the child’s picture when doing graphing activities. If you made pictures and laminated them they could be used for graphing through the year.

  20. I agree connecting children personally to information is a great way to begin a connection to data collection and how it can and does affect people

  21. I totally agree! sometimes when teaching this lesson, we can think that it’s hard for the kids. But doing this activities the kids will enjoy it.

  22. I actually took AP(IB) Statistics my junior year of high school with all seniors. I loved the class and was in the few that got an A. I also took statistics in college as my math req. because I liked it! I cannot believe I never thought of using it in my every day class routine. I make all the questions and make comparisons out loud but I need to start documenting and giving children the visual representation!
    -Jessica R

  23. This is very important for asking questions with children because it shows how they see how many times like for example if it was sunny or rainy then and make a chart about the number of days it was sunny or rainy.

  24. I’ve found that simple is better when doing data analysis with the kids. I also try to use real photos where I can. This helps the children make more of a direct correlation between what they are seeing and what we are counting.

  25. I’ve found that having many “go to” ideas for probable interests to gather data from helps the overall project. Talking the favorites of the children and comparing them is also conducive. Pizza slices with toppings would work well also. It would also encourage the beginning of compare and contrast circles of thought as well.

  26. i work with toddlers, 15months-24months. alot of them are just talking, this is hard thing to teach, im unsure of even the basics for them

    1. Hi Shelby! I would keep it very simple and developmentally appropriate. Anytime your toddlers choose between two things, you are collecting data. You have four children and three of them like apples and one wants an orange. When you point this out to the children, you are exposing your children to counting, sets, and attributes. This is all math at their level. All day long you are planting the seeds for future STEM success! Keep it simple and have fun! You are building the foundation! You’ve got this!

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