Lesson Plans

Lesson: Bad Chart Thursday

This lesson plan could be adjacent to or independent from my “Critical Lunching” lessons. This takes advantage of Melanie Mallon’s great Skepchick series called “Bad Chart Thursdays.”

Level: advanced pre-secondary, secondary, or post-secondary (depending on charts used)

Subject: language arts, social studies, critical thinking, math, science, or related subject

Objectives: TSWBAT recognize misleading statistics and inappropriate information presentation.

Materials: links to or printouts of original “Bad Chart” pages or charts, links to or printouts of “Bad Chart Thursday” explanations (or simplified teacher version), one or more good charts to present as a comparison

Introduction: (T-S-T)

T explains relevant ideas to the specific charts Ss will work on, such as relative vs. absolute numbers, correlation vs. causation, cherry-picking, and manipulating data to make it appear different. Spurious Correlations may provide good examples. Ss ask questions and T answers.

Pre-Reading: (T-S or S-T)

T shows example of one bad chart and elicits problem(s) from Ss.

Reading: (S)

Ss reads charts T provided and try to identify the specific problems. T may also give Ss a good chart as a trick question to test their understanding.

Post-Reading: (T-S or S-T)

T elicits answers from Ss and provides corrections, or shows Ss Skepchick’s “Bad Chart Thursdays” to explain.

Analysis and Reflection: (T-S-T)

T reviews concepts covered in this lesson. T asks Ss if they think these kinds of misleading statistics are rare or pervasive. Ss guess that they are common. T concluded lesson by showing “Bad Chart Thursdays” to help exemplify how many bad charts really exist.

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Jay teaches English in Asia and loves skepticism and teaching above all else.

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