The Power of Statistics
by Chadwick Hamilton
High School Math Teacher
APRIL 21, 2022 - 2 MIN READ
Take a look at this tweet from the New York Times from August 4, 2021. Take a few minutes. What stands out to you? What questions does it bring to mind?
Students in my Applied Statistics class were presented this in mid-August. We had a great conversation about how funding, geographic location, host country and climate all affect the medal count.
Students also noticed that the medals for China were smaller than for the other countries. This deliberate design change made it seem like the number of medals was much closer.
The idea that statistics can be used dishonestly is nothing new. It is important to understand this, but my hope with teaching Applied Statistics is that students would be more than skeptics of data. That they would not only question, but apply what they learn and be open to being surprised.
“...When information is presented in percentage form, no one really takes notice.”
Amaris Kim ’22
As we moved through the year, I realized that we knew how to interpret data. We knew how to ask questions. We knew how to build graphs and calculate probabilities. But how do we imbue them with power? How does one statistic shine through the hazy ubiquity of numbers? As one of my students Amaris Kim ’22 said, “...when information is presented in percentage form, no one really takes notice.”
So we spent a day looking at artist Chris Jordan who uses photography to bring attention to the environmental impact of mass consumption, listening to rapper Mos Def whose lyrics often tackle social issues, and searching for unique data visualizations. Why were these statistics more powerful? How did they create empathy?
Through exploration, peer and teacher feedback, students created unique art pieces that presented statistics. A song about addiction. A gif about the environmental cost of phones, an installation on fast fashion and a number of pieces about mental health. Looking at the art created reminded me of the power in giving voice to the students. Their work taught me more about the students I work with and the broader world. I hope you enjoy seeing just a few of those created works, and that they move you as they did me.
The Power of Statistics
“Looking at the art created reminded me of the power in giving voice to the students. Their work taught me more about the students I work with and the broader world.”
The pixels are teddy bears. Each bear represents 1,000 girls under 18 who were married last year in India.
Allison Cho '22 and Amaris Kim '22
Each pixel represents one of the 3,390 children killed by guns in the US in 2019.
Kate Tronsor '22
A total of 6.4 million women in Japan are significantly underweight.
1 dot = 1000 underweight women in Japan
0-14 year olds = 138 (yellow)
15-24 year olds = 144 (orange)
25-54 year olds = 972 (purple)
65 and older = 206 (pink)
Risa Resnick '23
77% of all trans youth seriously consider suicide (represented as white dots). 33% attempt it (black dots).
Sam Tronsor '22