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'Big Class' has never come in so handy

My kids know I’m a data and stats junkie even if they’re not exactly sure what that means. So naturally, I assume everyone at the dinner table has a solid operational understanding of the terms I use when I’m talking about the latest analysis story, and I’m always a little surprised when I discover that I’ve completely neglected to explain basic concepts.

Recently, my third grade daughter caught me as I walked in the door. Excitedly, she explained that she now knows what a data table is because they learned it in school. She also explained that cells are squares and rectangles in a data table. I, with my microbiology background, will have to sort that one out later.

My daughter's teacher had used architectural terms to help the kids remember where the columns and rows fit into a data table, but an understanding of what to put into rows and columns was still a little beyond the scope of the lesson. With enthusiasm, I pulled out my laptop and displayed the Big Class JMP data table (from the sample data in JMP) and began to explain that each person got one row, and each way of describing the people in the table went into a column. I was amazed at the level of attention the data table was getting. Then the first statement arrived: "I think I know these people... there’s Jaclyn, Elizabeth and Amy. Where am I on that table?"

I had been working on a demo that puts multiple graphs into a single window (see the image below) to show how report figures from a data table are all tied together. So I ran the script and showed her how we could compare her height with the heights of the girls in the different age groups.

As she grabbed the mouse and started clicking on the interactive graphs she said, “Well dad, I bet the boys are taller than the girls.” She then started running through the age groups to check (hypothesis testing!!). I’m not sure if there is a new generational predisposition to graphical data analysis or if the JMP interface is just intuitive, but in less than a minute she was pretty sure Jaclyn and Leslie (the two biggest girls) were in charge of the playground and that Lillie and Robert (the two smallest kids) were probably friends because they played in the sand box together.

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Ann wrote:

I love this! Kids are so interested in everything...if only we could make sure they keep that curiosity.