Lesson 9: Problem Solving and Data
In this lesson, students use the problem solving process from earlier in the course to solve a data problem. After reviewing the process, the class is presented with a decision: whether a city should build a library, pet shelter, or fire department. Students work in teams to collect information on the Internet to help them decide what should be built, then use this information build an argument that will convince the city council of their choice. They then map what they have done to the problem solving process that they have been using throughout the course, comparing the general problem solving process to its specific application to data problems.
Students have spent the first half of the unit exploring how computers represent different types of information, or data. In this lesson, they learn how data can be used to solve real word problems, revising the problem solving process through the lens of data analysis.
Warm up (5 mins)
Problem Solving with Data (70 min)
Students will be able to:
- Use the problem solving process to answer a question using data.
- Identify and collect relevant data to help solve a problem.
- Use data to draw conclusions.
For the Teacher
- Problem Solving with Data - 2018 - Exemplar
For the Students
- Problem Solving with Data - Activity Guide
Warm up (5 mins)
In the first half of this unit, we talked about different types of data, or information, that are stored on the computer. Now we’re going to look at how we use data to solve different problems.
The goal of this discussion if for students to realize that they use the Internet as an information resource to help them solve problems in their own lives. As the students brainstorm why they go online, encourage them to frame their information search as one step in problem solving.
Prompt When’s the last time that you looked for information on the Internet? Why did you need it?
All of these things are data, and they all helped us to solve a problem in our lives. Today, we’re going to look at our problem solving process and how it can be used together with data.
Problem Solving with Data (70 min)
Group: Put students into groups of 3-4
Introduce students to the scenario as explained in the activity guide. You can choose a location best for your classroom, or use the example location of the Columbia Mall in Columbia, MO.
For this activity, we’re going to be experts hired by the Columbia, MO City Council to give advice on what they should build in a new location. The city has the money to build something near the Columbia Mall, but the council can’t agree on what the city needs most. Some members want a fire station, others want an animal shelter, and others want a library. Our job is to research data and use the problem solving process to help us make a convincing recommendation to the council.
Review: Review the problem solving process: Define, Prepare, Try, Reflect.
Hand out Problem Solving with Data - Activity Guide and let students know that they will be working through it as a class.
Students should understand that it’s not just about having an opinion about what should be built, but to use data data to help decide what the city needs most.
Ask students to take a few moments to write down what the problem is, then allow them to discuss with a partner.
Allow students to share out their responses and discuss as a class.
Now that we understand the problem, we need to decide what data will be useful to us. Everyone write down three types of data that might help you to decide what the city needs the most.
If students are having trouble coming up with relevant data, you can try to lead them to some of the following:
- What libraries, fire stations, or animal shelters are in the area? (map sites, such as Google Maps)
- Are people happy with the existing services? (review sites, such as Yelp)
- How many people live in the city? How large is the city? (City web site, or Wikipedia)
Allow students to share out the different types of data and list them on the board. As more data is suggested, ask students where they think they might find this data, focusing on information that is readily available online.
This is a lot of data, and we may not be able to find it all. We’re going to split into groups to look for this data
Assign every group a particular type of data to research online, ensuring each knows where to look for it.
Circulate: Support groups as they try to locate the data online and record what they have found on the Activity Guide.
After each group has finished, bring the class back together to share the data, putting the results of the research on the board.
Once all the groups have shared their data, allow each group to decide what they think should be at the location and fill out the chart with their reasons and data. Make sure students understand that they are allowed to use the data from the whole class, and not just that of their particular group. They should use at least two types of data to support their decision.
Circulate: Support groups as they decide what should be built at the location. If groups cannot come to an agreement, assure them that there is no "right" answer for this problem, but they should try to figure out what they can support with two types of data.
Have groups share out their decisions, as well as the reasons and data that support them. Assure them that it's fine to have difference between and within groups.
Students should understand and be comfortable with the fact that the decisions that we make from data involve interpretation and prioritization. They should be able to support their decisions using the data the class found.
Even people with the same data can sometimes come to different conclusions. When you make a decision with data, you have to know what the data means and what is important to you.
Ask students to fill out the last portion of the worksheet, reminding them that more data might help them make a better decision.
Data Problem Solving Process
We were able to use the problem solving process to help us make a decision with data, but there were some parts of it that may have felt new.
Students should note that the "Define" step of the process was very similar, but that "Prepare" step asked students to Collect data, and the "Try" step asked them to Interpret data.
Journal: In your journal, write one thing that felt the same about using the problem solving process, and two things that felt different.
After students have finished writing, give them a few minutes to share with a partner, then draw them back for a group discussion.
Allow students to share out their answers, and list them on the board, then display the Problem Solving Process for Data.
Even though we're using the same general problem solving process, we do some specific things when we work with data. The steps to the Data Problem Solving Process are Define, Collect, Interpret and Reflect. We'll be using this process through the rest of the chapter to help us solve problems.
Journal: Ask students to think of a problem in their lives or community that they might be able to solve with data. They should answer the following three questions:
- What is the problem?
- What data could help you solve it?
- Where could you find that data?
CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)
DA - Data & Analysis
- 2-DA-08 - Collect data using computational tools and transform the data to make it more useful and reliable.