Graphing the Winter Olympics!

IMG_3115I have a confession to make. I’m really more of a Summer Olympics person that a Winter Olympics person. Yeah, when the Olympics were here in 2010, I went as nuts as the rest of us (I had to go outside for the last few minutes of the men’s gold medal hockey game – I was so nervous and excited I thought I was going to throw up!) and I love watching Canadian athletes succeed! But let’s face it – the Winter Olympics happen during the school year, so I have very little time to watch. And they usually happen when report cards are looming, so I am a little pre-occupied.

But when I really think about it, the Olympics provide so many awesome teaching opportunities, and the Winter Olympics are great just because they DO happen during the school year!

The other day I was chatting with Sara Bell, one of the great vps here in our district. We got to chatting about learning resources and she showed me the website Power of Ten (awesome site – thanks Trevor Calkins!) and the free Winter Olympics Math resource – Sports as a Teachable Moment – updated and includes the 2018 Olympic Games on the site. That got me to thinking….sports statistics! What an fantastic real world way to talk about data and graphing and to build number and time sense! Just how much faster did that Canadian skier go down the hill? How many degrees did the snowboarder rotate if they did a backside triple cork? Which country has the worst record for penalty minutes in an Olympic hockey game?

Power of Ten’s Winter Olympic resource is aimed at Grades K to 8, with lots of great information as well as charts where information from past Olympics is recorded, with a place to put the information from this Winter Olympics as well! You can use the charts as is, or better yet, start creating graphs!

For K to 2 students, this is something I would likely do as a class. You can, of course, go old school and use paper for the graphs or you can go digital.

Apple’s Numbers app is a spreadsheet app that can quite quickly make simple graphs from a spreadsheet. Here is a quick tutorial.

There are a few graphing apps specifically made for elementary students and, while I can’t say I’ve tried them all, some of them don’t look that great. However, Teaching Graphs is made by the company Little Monkey Apps and their Math apps all seem pretty well thought out. The Teaching Graph app is not perfect but it does let kids make some pretty great looking graphs quite quickly. Finished graphs can be saved to the Picture gallery. Here’s a graph I made quickly:

IMG_0550 2

Although I have not used this app with primary students, I would think that Grade 2 and 3 students would be able to use it quite easily after a little modelling.

For students from Grade 4 to 8 we have access to Google Sheets. Like many spreadsheet programs, Sheets can seems a bit intimidating at first. There are certainly lots of bells and whistles! However, it can also be used for simple graphing.

Here is an image of the Gold Medal data I used for the previous graph, put into Sheets.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 5.36.42 PM

To create a graph or chart from the data, I simply highlight the data and click Insert then Chart. Google will build the chart it thinks work best and you can then go in and change or customize the graph or chart.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 5.37.03 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-12 at 5.38.23 PM

Once you’re happy with what you’ve done, you can save it as an image by clicking the three vertical dots in the top right corner.

With all of the information coming at us on a daily basis, teaching kids to read, interpret and represent data is an important part of numerical literacy. Being able to use real-life statistics from something cool like the Winter Olympics makes this a more enjoyable task for both the teacher and the students!


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