Lots of things in the world seem to happen at random. Some days may be sunny. Other days may be rainy. As time goes by, people record whether days are rainy or sunny, and from these observations, they find patterns that repeat at certain times of the year. It's not just limited to weather, either. By taking note of certain events, information can be used to better understand the world.
Data is information gathered through observation or experiments. For example, if someone wanted to find out what kinds of birds were in their backyard, they might record all of the different types of birds they see out the window. That data can then be graphed or charted to better show which birds are most commonly found in the backyard. In many cases, data is collected by following the scientific method to conduct an experiment.
When it's all by itself, data can be hard to read or make sense of. After all, if it's not organized, it's just a bunch of numbers and names. To read data, it needs to be arranged in a graph or chart. There are many different types of graphs and charts, and picking the right one can help make the data much easier to understand. If trying to chart data about different types of things, like the types and number of different birds in a backyard, a bar graph is a good way to quickly show which type of bird is the most common. The graph can then be used to help predict which birds are most likely to show up outside.
If a coin is flipped, there's an equal chance that it will land with either side facing up. The method of figuring out how likely something is to happen is called probability. Data is used to help determine probability. Probability can be measured in a precise way, with percentages, or with general statements, such as saying that something is likely or unlikely to happen. Probability isn't an exact way to tell what's going to happen, but it can give scientists a good guess.
Probability can be used in a lot of fun ways. It can even be used to figure out something like what to wear every day! If there's a 30% chance of rain, then rain boots can probably stay in the closet because the chance of rain is low. But if there's a 70% chance of rain, people can expect that they might get their feet wet and should carry an umbrella if they go outside. Probability can also be found in lots of games and activities.
Many board games involve dice. Every time the dice are rolled, probability comes into play, especially if the player is trying to roll a specific number on the dice. With every die that is introduced to the game, the chances of rolling a certain number change. Rolling dice to see which numbers come up most often is a good way to get familiar with recording data and using that information to determine probability. Data can even be found in games. Sports fans use the past performance of teams to guess how future games will end.
In science, data and probability are constantly used to learn new things about the world. By using these tools, humans have figured out how to predict what will happen in the future. It's how farmers know when the best time to plant crops is or how fishermen know when the tide will be highest on a given day. Probability is how store owners guess when people will buy the most things, too. And data on how model rockets worked and what fuel was needed to propel a weight upward gave scientists the information they needed to launch shuttles into space. Data and knowing how to read it is the key to science.
Find out more about data and probability with the links listed below:
- The Data Bank Analysis Game
- Animal Island Data Game
- Orange Trees, Olive Trees: Data and Chance
- Science Buddies Data Analysis and Graphs
- Study Jams: Choosing the Correct Graph
- Plant Data
- Bugs in the System: Data Graphing
- The Vile Vendor Probability Game
- Probability Quick Review
- Visit the Probability Fair!
- Probability Pond
- Colored Sheep
- Pull From a Bag: Certain, Likely, or Impossible?
- Online Probability Spinner
- K-12 Chart Maker
- Probably Probability
- Billy Bug and the Quest for Grub
- Bobby Bear's Closet
- Create a Graph
Added by Gary Taylor