Students will analyze data of tornadoes throughout the United States. They will create a bar graph of the number of tornadoes for the top ten states in the country and then calculate the median and the mode of the data.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- Colorado: Math
- Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. (Grade 3)  ...show
- Give quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation), as well as describing any overall pattern and any striking deviations from the overall pattern with reference to the context in which the data were gathered. (Grade 6)  ...show
- Colorado: Science
- a. Develop and communicate an evidence-based scientific explanation for changes in weather conditions (Grade 5)  ...show
- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- 3. Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step "how many more" and "how many less" problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. For example, draw a bar graph in which each square in the bar graph might represent 5 pets. (Grade 3)  ...show
- 5. Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context, such as by:
- Reporting the number of observations.
- Describing the nature of the attribute under investigation, including how it was measured and its units of measurement.
- Giving quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation), as well as describing any overall pattern and any striking deviations from the overall pattern with reference to the context in which the data were gathered.
- Relating the choice of measures of center and variability to the shape of the data distribution and the context in which the data were gathered.
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- C. Various relationships exist between technology and other fields of study. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Explain why engineers need to know where tornadoes occur and how engineers might analyze data to determine those patterns.
- Be able to rank states according to the number of tornadoes (greatest to least).
- Explain the difference between and how to calculate the median and the mode.
- Create bar graphs and interpret data of tornado occurrences.
Before the Activity
With the Students
- Explain to the students that tornadoes can form in any state and that they will be looking to see which states have the most and least tornadoes.
- Ask students to predict which states they think will have the most and least tornadoes. What about their home state? Alaska? Hawaii? Students should write their prediction in their science journals or on a sheet of paper.
- Have the students get into pairs. Pass out either the Ranked Worksheet or the Alphabetized Worksheet to students.
- Have students create a bar graph of the ten states with the most tornadoes.
- Have students create a bar graph of the ten states with the least tornadoes.
- Which state actually has the most? (Answer: Texas) Which state has the least? (Answer: Alaska) Where there any surprises? Have students write the answer on their worksheets.
- Explain to students that the median is the middle value of a series of numbers, and mode is the number that occurs the most often.
- Have students find the median and the mode of the data set and record their values on their worksheets. Providing students with a ranked data set will be very helpful for this part. (The median will be between the 25th and 26th, ranked states, Wyoming and South Carolina respectively. The exact answer would be 428.5, but anything between 423 and 434 could be acceptable.) The mode is 886.
- Have the students look at their original predictions (what states they think will have the most and least tornadoes). Was their prediction right? How close were their predicted states to the median and mode of the data?
- Using engineering terms, have students write a summary of the data they graphed. Tell them to write a paragraph summarizing what the graphs tell them. This should be 3-4 sentences describing any patterns they see, the median and mode of the data, and why understanding the data is important to engineers.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Post Activity Assessment
Jessica Todd, Melissa Straten, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
© 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: November 26, 2015