Researcher for a day: What kinds of animals live in the Amazon?

by Lindsay Maldonado

posted by Lindsay Maldonado

By day, I’m a researcher at Shedd Aquarium. I study people though, not animals – but, at Shedd, there are also a lot of people who do study animals. Some of these people are conservation research scientists or aquarists, who use math, and science, to help them learn more about the animals in their care, or animals in the wild. No matter who, or what, your subjects are, collecting data helps researchers collect information (i.e., data) that can provide answers to important research questions. For example, I might want to know how many visitors learned something about how they can help animals after their visit; or a conservation researcher might want to know how many seahorses live in a certain area of the world. So, to get us started, let’s pretend we are research scientists. We have our clipboard loaded up with our data collection sheet, some pencils, and our observation eyes. Now we’re ready to start collecting data!

penguin survey

Data analysis is one of the big ideas of early mathematics and can serve as a foundation for introducing other big ideas like sets, number sense, and counting — and, what better place to apply these ideas than at the aquarium with real living animals.

We have some important research questions to answer, so let’s get back into scientist mode. Today we want to know how many different animals live in the River Channel – and, we’re going to answer this question by observing animals (i.e., gathering data) and documenting what we see (i.e., organizing and describing data). These are all important steps to data analysis! If we want to know what animals live in the River Channel, we first need to make some observations. What do you see? A variety of animals live in the River Channel. How many animals do you see? Can you count them? I see 8 animals.

how many animals

Like the Amazon River, this habitat shows the diversity of animals that live in the river. What kind of animals do you see? I see turtles, stingrays, and fish.

kinds of animalsWe can sort the animals in the River Channel in a number of ways. First, we can sort by the attribute: type of animal. There are fish, turtles, and stingrays. Let’s put these animals on our graph. Representing data, in this way, is an important part of data analysis and allows us to interpret the data we collected.

blank graph

Let’s revisit our research question. We want to know how many types of animals live in the Amazon River. Through observation, we saw that fish, turtles, and stingrays live in the Amazon River so there are three types of animals in the River Channel. But how many of each live there? Let’s use our graph to help us organize our data. How many fish do you see? How many turtles? How many stingrays?

animals on graph

In what other ways can you sort these animals? You can use any number of attributes to sort the animals in this picture. We used the attribute of type (turtles, stingrays, and fish) but you could also sort these animals by size or shape. Observing animals at an aquarium is full of math possibilities. You can use data collection and data representation as the foundation for exploring the big ideas of early math. Keep exploring data analysis in the classroom. Try more data activities here.

42 Replies to “Researcher for a day: What kinds of animals live in the Amazon?”

  1. I like the use of an interesting topic for the children to be engaged in, this is a great and simple way to introduce data analysis collection.

  2. I think this activity would make children stop and think. It might be a novel concept to them which would increase their curiosity.

  3. This is a fun idea to try with looking through a picture book if you can’t get out to the aquarium or zoo. The kids would love pretending to be out in the field researching! Graphing what they see would really make it real.

  4. This topic is a high interest topic for young children making it a wonderful way to teach data collection!

  5. This activity would be great in helping children understand the variance between animals who live in the same place as well as understand that birds can be grouped together or apart depending on the data being collected.

  6. Real concrete things are always more interesting than pictures or relying on memory. PLus it helps when you can go back or look at the things and check them out.

  7. This is the best way to use the concept of data collection and representation, so that kids will enjoy while learning

  8. a trip to the zoo or aquarium is the perfect environment to begin a data collection/analysis project; most children love to watch animals and this trip will provide a wide variety of questions that can be answered……

  9. This is a great activity for children, it is fun for them and interesting. Will definitely implement this in my own classroom.

  10. My class of 2-3 year-olds love animals and this could be a great first step to collecting data. Also, a trip to the zoo (first) would be a great way to engage them.

  11. I like how this topic focuses on distinguishing the characteristics of aquatic life by creating and analyzing the physical attributes. By distinguishing these attributes, this activity is also creating data as a result. I think this activity would be great when teaching children on the importance of data.

  12. During this time when we can’t go to the zoo, I have been showing videos that help us learn about the animals. We can make our own graphs for what type of animals each zoo has and how many, or we could even graph what types of food each group of animal eats. Thanks for the great ideas!

  13. I like questions that as teacher can be asked to guide children in learning how to create graphs and to collect data.

  14. Using animals is a good choice, because children all like animals. So using this they are learning about animals also.

  15. This will be easy to collect data for. The concept could be changed to farm animals. Children like animals and this would be easy for the children to interpret the findings.

  16. Because many children love animals, I thought this was a great way to experiment with data collection. Like number sense, many children already know about animals so helping them see the results on a visual graph will further their learning and exploration by discussing what they see and asking follow-up questions.

  17. I loved learning more about the do’s and don’ts about graphing. Seeing all the different ideas on what to graph is especially helpful. The children will love these ideas!

  18. super idea – whether at a zoo or aquarium or from a picture book or stuffed animals. Great to see how animals differ.

  19. This gives me a great idea for introducing data collection and analysis to my preschoolers. They love animals and talking about them!

  20. This is a great lesson for beginners to learn data and analysis. It’s interesting to them and also helps with learning different physical attributes to animals that live in the Amazon

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