Numbers in Nature, Math on the Mountain: A Teacher-Scientist Partnership to Tell Stories of Place Through Data
Data are the workhorses of the scientific endeavor and their use is rapidly evolving (Haendel, Vasilevsky, and Wirz 2012). Ask almost any scientist about their work, and the conversation will involve the data they collect and analyze. The use of data in science is often captured in science classrooms as an ill-defined link between math and science that may not reflect authentic data practices (Tanis Ozcelik and McDonald 2013). Students often find themselves collecting data to confirm obvious conclusions within highly structured labs, and data become a way for students to demonstrate the precision of their methods rather than a tool for explaining a phenomenon. For scientists, data are much more: Data are used for the inductive process of theory building (Windschitl et al. 2007). In other words, data can be used to tell rich narratives about relationships, phenomena, places, and other facets of the natural world through both inductive and deductive processes. Learning how to read the stories within data is a learned skill that must be intentionally taught, not only to K–12 students, but also to teachers. This process has the power to help transform science education from a droll recitation of known facts to an immersive exploration of nature, in nature’s own language.
Through the Numbers in Nature, Math on the Mountain (NiNMoM) project, teachers and scientists were brought together to collaboratively explore data that tell the stories of two locations in Central Oregon: the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (HJA) and Mt. Bachelor. Project goals were to increase teachers’ data literacy and cocreate contextualized curricula the teachers could enact with their students.