For anyone interested in data visualization, the r/dataisbeautiful subreddit is an amazing place to explore (you can also follow @DataIsBeautiful on Twitter). This subreddit has an active community of posters who create and discuss a wide variety of data visualizations. Shortly after the first successful landing by SpaceX of a reused Falcon 9 rocket, an incredible feat of engineering, the visualization below was created and shared by reddit user Brenden2016.
Even more interesting than the visualization was the discussion that followed. Over 200 comments (as I write this) have been posted regarding this visualization and suggestions of how to improve its powerful story of the increased efficiency and success of SpaceX Falcon 9 landings. Several issues emerged:
Additionally, two users created and posted alternate versions of the graph. One user, nicocote, created a double bar graph using additional launch data that didn't appear in the original. Another user, azura26, created a step graph instead of a line graph.
The full list of Falcon 9 landings can be found on the list of launches on Wikipedia. I took this data, summarized it and put it into a Google Sheets document to share (https://goo.gl/Ihr2Io). Please feel free to use it to generate your own data visualization or use it with students.
In the Classroom
This set of data appears to be a nice one to use in a classroom. It is a fairly small data set, is current and from the real world and (for me at least) is an engaging and interesting story. In a grade 8 classroom working on data presentation, I might start by showing the students some dramatic video of Falcon 9 boosters both crashing and landing successfully. Fiery explosions always make an impression! Then we could look at the data showing how SpaceX has done an impressive job of learning from their mistakes (and perhaps how this relates to a growth mindset in the mathematics classroom). We could then look at the data visualization from above and brainstorm, as a class, what features of the graph are positive and which could be improved. We could also answer the question, "what is the story this graph is trying to tell?" We could then break into groups, review that data and see if the groups could come up with a different way of telling that story using the data. Perhaps a different type of visualization or even an infographic could be created.
What would you do with this data in your classroom? Please let me know.
Nova Scotia Mathematics Curriculum Outcomes
Grade 8 SP01 - Students will be expected to critique ways in which data is presented.
Mathematics Essentials 11 F2 - Select an effective data display for a given set of data and explain the reasons for the choice.
Mathematics at Work 11 S01 - Students will be expected to solve problems that involve creating and interpreting graphs, including bar graphs, histograms, line graphs, and circle graphs.
I recently visited Memory Lane Heritage Village in Lake Charlotte. It is a living history museum depicting coastal rural life in Nova Scotia during the 1940s. My five year old son had a great time. He especially enjoyed sitting in the 1928 Ford Model A car and pretending to drive. On the way back home I was thinking about other living history museums in Nova Scotia and realized that, based on my experience, it appears that the further away from my home in Halifax that I drive, the farther back in time the museums depict. When I got home, I dug up some data. Sherbrooke Village depicts a typical Nova Scotian village from the 1860s and the Fortress of Louisbourg allows you to experience life in Louisbourg during the 1740s.
I used Google Maps to find the driving distance from my house to each of these locations and discovered a nearly perfect linear relationship. How perfect you ask? The correlation coefficient was 0.99906. I quickly created a scatter plot with a line of best fit to show my wife. Despite my exuberance, she appeared to remain unimpressed.
It is also interesting to see that the points on the scatter plot are almost exactly where the sites are on a map of Nova Scotia as well. Mind Blown.
A question that I still have is whether this apparent temporal relationship is based on distance or displacement. Perhaps I need to collect some additional data (or not intentionally disregard data that doesn't fit my hypothesis)? If I travel in the opposite direction, should a living history museum depict life in the past or in the future? I'd love to visit Yarmouth some day to experience what life will be like in rural Nova Scotia in the year 2213!