The Survey Project

By: Mary Kienstra on: May 22, 2016  in: #tlap, graphing, math engagement, , ,

What do you do at the end of the school year when the standard is data analysis?  Create a survey project!  It makes perfect sense.  Kids will care much more about analyzing the data that they collect than about any data presented in the text.  Let them create their own.

  1. Take a survey.
  2. Create a graph to display the data.
  3. Write questions about the graph.
  4. Answer the questions that your peers ask about their graphs.

My students know line plots and bar graphs. We practice graphing in many ways throughout the year. What they needed to learn, though, was the difference between numerical and categorical data.  I used a concept attainment model for them to distinguish between those two types of data.  They understood that quickly and were ready to create their own survey question.  The requirement for this assignment was that the question should generate numerical data.

We reviewed the question together before they started asking classmates. Some of their questions need a a bit of clarification to make sure that everyone understood what they were asking.  For example, the question “How many people are in your family?” generated confusion over who you would actually include – grandma and grandpa? aunts? cousins? or maybe the better question was “Who lives with you in your house?”  We also discussed using tally marks and T-charts as a way to organize data.

Next they all worked their way around the room polling their classmates.  This was a bit chaotic, but necessary, as they collected data for the question they wrote.

The next day they all created a bar graph to display their data.  I purposefully did not give them graph paper, but had them create on large sheets of white paper.  This way, they had to measure and think about scale.  Some were neater than others, but they all created graphs that showed their data.


With their finished graphs ready to go, they created 3 questions that could be answered by analyzing their graph.  This kind of activity is so important as it shows their true understanding when they can write the question instead of just answer one.   Writing questions is very difficult for most of them as they struggle to use the proper math vocabulary that describes their data.  After all, this is a very high level task.



The last step in the process was to place the graphs and questions around the room in “stations” and have the kids rotate around to answer the questions.  This is where it gets interesting, as kids have to analyze each others’ graphs and answer the student-created questions about each graph.

Third and Fourth graders love this activity because they choose their survey question and analyze their own data.   As they work through the project, they realize that creating a meaningful graph and analyzing the data is not as easy as they thought it would be.  Not only did they meet the standard for data analysis, they exceeded it.

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