(Math) Charts and Graphs: Your Name May Reveal Your Age
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#1: (Math) Charts and Graphs: Your Name May Reveal Your Age Author: adediosLocation: Angel C. de Dios PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 9:35 am

Your Name May Reveal Your Age
by Angel C. de Dios
22 January 2006

In these days of multimedia, it has become even more important to be aware of how we present information. Presentation slides are indeed easy to make, but good slides still require a conscious effort to convey information in the most efficient way. Slides that contain only text with the speaker reading the same thing to the audience is sometimes regarded as "death by PowerPoint". Good slides should contain material that cannot be easily drawn on a board. Graphics is important in judging whether a particular slide is essential or not in any presentation. And in this area, it is important to review how plots or graphic displays can enhance a presentation.

In the November/December 2005 issue of Science News for Kids, an article was published that illustrated the usefulness of plots in presenting information. What was highlighted in this article was a database of names given to newborns in the United States as provided by the Social Security Administration. The raw information was then put into statistical analysis to provide a meaningful historical comparison. Laura Wattenberg, in collaboration with her husband, Martin Wattenberg, who works with IBM, prepared the analysis and presentation of the data.

Plotting the frequency of when a given name is used against year allows for such comparison. The data also have been divided according to gender. Names like "Angel", for example, could be used for both male and female. The data suggest that "Angel" has not been frequently used for boys, however, by 2004, it has been used more than 2000 times per million babies born. "Angel" is now ranked as number 44 among names used for boys. Since the plots are made against year, one can easily follow the historical trend in the use of a specific name. One can even see how a name varies over time. For example, "Reynaldo" was used more than 400 times in the 70's and "Rey" was not used at that time, but in 2004, there are now about 40 babies names with just "Rey" and the historical trend shows that its use is increasing with time. Based on this, one may infer that anyone who is originally named "Rey" must be very young.

In this example, it is nicely illustrated how plots can enhance the presentation of a piece of information. It is indeed a tool that should be exploited in our effors to enhance learning in the classrooms. The original article can be found here:



Questions to explore further this topic:

You can explore other names with Wattenberg's database and display:


Background information regarding the Wattenberg's database


What are graphs?


Graphs and other statistical terms


Examples of graphs


A short lesson on bar graphs


Making Histograms


You can create your own graphs here


Tips on how to create good presentations


Tutorials and activities for Microsoft Excel


A tutorial for Microsoft PowerPoint


Statistical and Graphing activities for kids


The Best and Worst Graphs




#2: Summing Up Literature Author: adediosLocation: Angel C. de Dios PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:12 am
Week of June 16, 2007; Vol. 171, No. 24

Summing Up Literature
Julie J. Rehmeyer

It's an old stereotype: he who hates mathematics curls up with a book, and she who revels in numbers is bored by fiction. But Franco Moretti, an English professor at Stanford University, believes that a full understanding of literature requires mathematical tools. He is inventing a new school of literary history based on statistical analysis of data about novels rather than close readings of the texts themselves.

For the full article:


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