
Collecting and Examining Weather Data (applet)
Students organize and then examine data that has been collected over a period of time in a spreadsheet. 
Task
Have students collect data related to the weather in their city. Organize and archive the data collected over a period of time in a spreadsheet. A sample spreadsheet appears below. Add data (real data from your area or madeup data for this exploration) and see how the "summary data" change. What do the summary data tell you? After collecting data for a month, explore and develop answers for questions such as, What was our weather like in January? How would we describe January weather in our town to a visitor? What was the temperature generally like this month? How much rainfall did we get?
[Standalone applet]
How to Use the Interactive Figure
Spreadsheet
 Click on a cell to edit or add new data.
 Use the buttons on the left to sort the data by different categories.
 Use the Calculate button to update the mean, maximum, and minimum.
 Use the Clear button to clear contents and Reset to return the original values.
Scatterplot
 Values from the spreadsheet are plotted on the scatterplot.
 Use the buttons under "yvalues" and "xvalues" to select the categories to be plotted.
 Moving the cursor to data points will return the corresponding x and yvalues for that point.
Bar Graph
 Values from the spreadsheet are plotted on the bar graph.
 Use the up and down arrows to increase and decrease the number of bars.
 Clicking on the bars will return the percent of data points in that bar.
 Moving the cursor along the xaxis will return the value of the division points between bars.
Additional Tasks
As students gather data over several months, they should compare data sets. For example, which was the colder month—this month or last month? On what basis could such a decision be made? Are there ways to graph the data to enable comparisons?
Students might be interested in accessing data for prior years and comparing their data with data for the same month over several years. Is the January weather generally the same during these years? Were temperatures and rainfall similar in other Januarys? How much do the temperature and rainfall vary? Is it pretty much the same every year? Students also may become interested in comparing data from their own locale to data from other areas—perhaps places that students have visited or where their friends or relatives are living. Comparisons of data from different cities or regions, of data from coastal communities and inland communities, or of weather in different hemispheres are all possible extensions.
A variety of websites contain large databases (census data, educational statistics, athletic statistics, etc.). Find and explore some of these databases. Download interesting data into a spreadsheet for additional study.
Discussion
Students can collect weather data by checking the local paper, watching a daily televised weather report, getting the information from a Web site, or monitoring various aspects of the weather themselves. Archiving data in a spreadsheet allows students to add new types of data as they become interested in other aspects of the weather. For example, in the Boston area, students might realize that in the winter, the temperature alone does not give them enough information to fully describe the weather. Wind chill is a measure that gives a better sense of how cold it actually feels, so they might decide to add this measure to their chart. They might also realize that simply listing the amount of precipitation does not tell them in what form the precipitation fell—rain, snow, hail, or sleet. They might decide to add another column to keep track of this information. A spreadsheet provides maximum flexibility for current and future explorations.
Take Time to Reflect
 Are spreadsheets available on the computers students use in your classroom? In the computer lab in your school? At students' homes? Take a poll of your students to find out. Also ask them to find out if their parents use a spreadsheet at home or work.
 What data would your students find interesting to collect? How can a spreadsheet help with organizing, summarizing, and displaying the data?
 What features of a spreadsheet make it a good tool for thinking? What features of a spreadsheet make it a good tool for communicating?
Also see:
 5.5 Collecting, Representing, and Interpreting Data Using Spreadsheets and Graphing Software
 5.5.2 Representing and Interpreting Data