Data analysis can be tedious, especially when every graph starts to look the same. One way to keep your students engaged is to use data visualization activities with creative data illustrations, instead of sticking to traditional graphs types. Good data visualizations portray data in a way that is interesting and often combine math with other disciplines, such as geography or art.
However, selecting good charts and graphs for data visualization activities can take a lot of time. Many data visualization examples are cool illustrations but do not portray the data clearly enough to be useful for classroom activities.
Today, I’ve curated five engaging charts and graphs you can use for data visualization activities.
1. Healthy Foods
This fun graph with illustrations portrays a list of foods and compares the percentage of nutritionists that say they are healthy to the percentage of Americans who say the same.
There are lots of different activities you could design using this graph. To begin, ask your students to identify the foods of which the same percentage of nutritionists and Americans said were healthy. Students should be able to list the foods on the dotted line (chocolate chip cookies, hamburgers, etc.)
From there, you can design a variety of activities. For example, you could have your students use the data from the graph to make a chart that compares the percentages side-by-side, instead of being shown on the x and y-axes.
2. Daily Routines
This interesting chart is actually a compilation of many different graphs stacked on top of each other. It shows the distribution of the average person’s time over a weekday in 2020. There is a different short graph for each activity, and the time of day listed along the x-axis.
This illustration also shows the percentage of people sleeping along the y-axis of the top graph. This is helpful because it gives you an idea of the percentages for the subsequent graphs.
As an easy data visualization activity, you can ask your students to use a ruler and measure the distance between 0-10%. Then, using the ruler, they can estimate the percentage of people involved in any other activity at a certain time. For example, you could ask your students, what percentage of people were involved in work or work-related activities at 8 a.m.?
3. Moving Drought Boundaries
How do drought zones change over time?
This map of the United States chronicles five years of drought data across the country. The helpful key in the bottom left-hand corner explains how the color coding and dot size correspond to the data.
As a data visualization activity, provide your students with a road map of the United States. Pick out a list of cities and ask your students to estimate the location of these cities on the drought map using the road map for reference. Use a database to research attributes of the cities they have chosen such as population or activities that have a high demand for water such as agriculture, mining, or consumptive industries. Then ask them to interpret the drought map to explain the drought conditions for each city on the list.
4. Mapping Solar and Wind Power
This data visualization activity also includes maps!
These maps illustrate how much we would need to increase wind and solar coverage to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, instead of relying completely on non-renewable energy.
Have your students study the maps and discuss the placement of the proposed wind and solar farms. Why might the proposed wind farms be placed on the coast and in the mid-U.S.? Why are many of the proposed solar farms placed in the south?
Have your students discuss why some areas are not listed on the map as a potential location for wind or solar coverage. Generate a list of claims about what makes a location ideal for each type of renewable energy. Then you can assign pairs of students to collect evidence for each claim.
5. Life Expectancy
You’re probably thinking this is an awful data visualization…and you are absolutely right. This just looks like a mess of black lines, and we have no idea which line corresponds to which country.
So, why is this graph useful for a data visualization activity?
Well, the dataset used to make this graph was also used to make 24 other graphs. Yep, that’s right. One dataset visualized 25 different ways!
I doubt you will want to go through all 25 graphs with your students, but students can each choose a country and discuss the details of their choice with a partner or in a group. This will allow them to become experts on analyzing data from their own graph while speaking about a common topic. When each students shares their observations, it will make the summary of the data from all graphs more meaningful.