Data analysis uses math to make sense of the world. It can be as simple as writing down a list of grocery items and noting in parenthesis the number to purchase.
Eggs (2 cartons)
Bacon (1 package)
Milk (1 gallon)
Yogurt (4 containers)
At the heart of it, data analysis is compiling information and describing it in a quantitative way: how many? That then allows us to organize it, make comparisons, and generalize. All of that is what we want children to do, even at an early age. Mathematics is all about making sense of the world.
Below are a few picture books about children’s favorite topic (animals!) that invite children to explore and find answers to questions involving data.
Tiger Math: Learning to Graph from a Baby Tiger by Ann Whitehead Nagda and Cindy Bickel
The zoo is an amazing opportunity to talk about animals. But what about the math? This story of a new tiger cub that needs extra attention from zookeepers is a great way to show the importance of observation and analysis. In order for this cute cub to grow and be healthy, it is important to monitor and think about his growth. It’s also notable for showing the dwindling population of tigers in the wild. What a powerful real-world need to track data.
How Many Snails?: A Counting Book by Paul Giganti Jr.
Data analysis is driven by questions that need to be answered. In How Many Snails? the reader is asked a question from one page to the next, how many? More than a straight-forward counting book, this book uses questions of how many to compare and analyze attributes. A page that asks how many dogs were spotted at the park turns into a question of Were there more dogs with spots or without?. A page of many fish asks not only how many fish, but how many fish are red, as well as how many fish are both red and have their mouths open. This analysis of collections of different animals provides opportunities to delve into making sets in order to count and compare, the foundation of all data analysis.
Birds by Kevin Henkes
This colorful book follows a child as she is fascinated with the birds around her. She uses her imagination and critical thinking to wonder about the important question: IF.
If birds made marks with their tail feathers when they flew, think what the sky would look like.
Questions like this create a reason to investigate the world and make predictions. And activities outside of the book can create real data that can be collected and evaluated. If your children counted the number of birds in the tree outside the window at the same time every morning, could they make generalizations after a few days? What if they keep track of the colors of the birds? What IF questions in the world are they interested in?