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Data Need Not be Boring

We live in a data-driven world. Data is all around us and is growing to be a larger part of our world. To get a sense of the rate at which data flows every minute of every day, consider these numbers. Every minute of the day:

  • Google receives over two million search queries.
  • YouTube users upload 48 hours of new video content.
  • And there are 100,000 credit card transactions in the United States alone.
  • Look at Facebook. In only 15 minutes, the number of photos uploaded to Facebook is greater than the number of photographs stored in the New York public photo archives. What were you doing 15 minutes ago? Now consider the amount of data uploaded in the last day, week or month.
  • Twitter. Users post updates that must be 140 characters or fewer. A tweet is much smaller than a photo. So, how much data can this be?  According to the official Twitter blog in 2011, “Every day, the world writes the equivalent of a 10-million-page book in Tweets or 8,163 copies of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace.’?” Now, if you stacked all those copies of Tolstoy’s novel on top of each other, they would reach a towering 1,470 feet. That’s 15 feet taller than the Empire State Building. Keep in mind, that figure was a calculated rate for three years ago.

Graphical tools serve not only to understand data but also to communicate one’s findings. We see this frequently in modern infographics. Learning to graph data is an important tool for the modern mathematical student. As a means to this end, students can and do develop infographics. The classes range from general education to a higher-level class. The first step in such work is raising students’ awareness of infographics’ role in modern communication. From magazine ads to news stories, data is often displayed and tells an important part of the story.

Telling a story visually and through the data itself adds the power of a story.  Get your students to develop a visual picture of information.  It will add to their understanding.

 

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