Building Critical Thinking Skills using Data Interpretation

The typical questions that are asked on a graph require students to use limited skills like reading the graph and understanding the items on both axes and straight calculations based upon that.
But the questions designed to test critical thinking skills of students in Math and Science will test students on higher-order thinking skills which are directly applicable to a real-life situation.

Let us look at three such examples!

Q1. A graph for speed of a car which drives around tracks of different shapes like circle, square or a haphazard shape could be given to students. They can be asked to identify the shape of the track based on the graph.

Q2. A cricketer scored 2, 10, 70, 90, 130, 3, 0 runs respectively in seven matches in tournament A. Another cricketer scored 25, 30, 40, 55, 46, 31, 41 runs respectively in the same seven matches in the same tournament.
Which cricketer do you think played better and should get the player of the tournament award among the two? And how will you determine it?

Tip: Here, the student will need to think critically to decide whether a mean or a median is a better metric for judging performance

Q3. In the global happiness project, students asked six yes or no questions to participants to measure their “wellbeing”; which is a person’s immediate experience of a psychological state. They asked whether participants had experienced “stress” the previous day among other feelings (enjoyment, happiness, stress, worry, anger, sadness). Data was also collected about participants’ gender, personal finances, health and other things and collated in the graph below.

Asking which questions to the participants might have helped the researchers get the data to design the “Stress” graph ?

 Option A: At what time of the day yesterday did you experience stress?
Option B: Did you experience stress for a large part of the day yesterday?
Option C: On a scale of 3 to 9, how much stress did you experience yesterday?

A useful tip to remember:

When you give students a graph to analyze, ask them these questions to stretch their thinking beyond simple calculations:

What pattern do you see in the data/graph?
What does this graph tell you?
Who could use this data? How could they use it?
Why is this data shown in a line graph/Bar graph?
What do you think are the stories behind outliers?
What are the relationships between and among data sets?
What are the external factors that may have affected the data?
These questions will help students come to have a deeper understanding of the crucial distinction between theory and evidence.

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