Using Students’ Interests to get them Excited About Data

Start with a hook

Distance Learning has been both a blessing and a curse. Most parents and educators are fully aware of the negative side of not having kids in classrooms or physically at schools. I’d like to focus on an opportunity I took with my son for personalized learning. This got him excited about data and spreadsheets, which is not a hot topic for teenagers. He is an avid mountain biker, so I figured that was the hook. He wanted to find out about the popularity of mountain biking, but he was struggling to find information.

For mountain biking, there are a few major players that have been at the game for a while: Specialized, Cannondale, Trek, Giant, and Kona. In recent years, more “boutique” bike companies have become popular. They are still a bit smaller but make good quality bikes. Santa Cruz started out as one of these companies but is now considered the top mountain bike company in the mainstream market. My son wanted to know why.

Researching & Data Entry

He took that information and put it into a spreadsheet. He could see trends about why the company has been so popular. We researched some basic history of the company and took a look at the bikes that were created over the years. Santa Cruz’s bike archive website provided all the data we needed. He settled on data around the number of new models created each year and the number of bikes in production each year.

Santa Cruz bike models over time with number of years in production.

He began to notice that Santa Cruz produced a lot of different models, but every few years, some models stopped production and some new models came in. At the same time, there were some models that stayed in production for a long time. He then wondered if the increase in popularity was due to the variety of bike styles for different types of riders.

When it came to producing the graph, he tried different ideas such as bar charts, pie graphs (uh oh), and line charts. However, when choosing the area graph, he noticed it started to look wavy and bumpy, kind of like a mountain. He settled on the area graph and used colors to match an outdoor theme.

Conclusion

The takeaway from this for me was that if I was able to find a way to connect with what my son was interested in, the learning would take off on its own. I think that if I would have forced my son to “do some math work” it would have been like pulling teeth. He would not have retained much knowledge. Now, he is interested in collecting data on the different types of bikes he has owned and how much we have spent on those over time. Although I’m glad he is into it, I’m kind of scared to see the total cost! He has continued to post his passion on Instagram. Feel free to see what he is up to now!

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