What stories do the numbers tell?

I love statistics. I love numbers. I love all of the interesting stories numbers can tell, and I love trying to interpret what causes peaks and values in any data set. I have spreadsheets full of student data that I’ve started analyzing for my new students, everything from previous reading scores and math scores to the correlations between birthdays and peak scoring. I love the challenge of figuring out what all of this could mean.

However, I know that this is an incomplete data set. It isn’t a complete representation of who these scholars are and who they can become. It isn’t even the most important piece of information. If I picked a point from one of the valleys on a students data line, I’m seeing the moment they may have struggled with the content, or the day their dog died, or the moment they got stuck with that one teacher who smelled funny and smacked their gum while they were trying to focus. Or what if that was the moment a student decided to try something different, or take a different approach to a challenge?

When I look at a data set I look at trends, but I also look at ranges of possibilities. I used to focus on an average accumulation of a student’s scores. I looked at the average of a given data set and used that as a baseline for what the student was capable of, but the more I think about it, the less sure I am that it’s the right way to look at it. I don’t want to look at averages, because I don’t want average kids. I want to look at the peaks of a students performance and celebrate those accomplishments, use that as the baseline for a student’s potential. I want to look at the valleys and have the students understand why their scores dipped. I want to celebrate risk taking that led to failure and recognize students who are challenging the mediocrity.

I love the story that numbers tell, and I want to sit side by side with my students and help them determine what the numbers mean to them and how they can use the numbers to exceed their own expectations.