Seven-year-old George wants to design computer games. Five-year-old Erik hopes to become a policeman. Fourteen-year-old Jaime finds archaeology and history fascinating.

These youngsters and dozens of their peers recently took an important step toward achieving their dreams by participating in the Data Literacy Playshops program hosted by Washington State University data scholars. The youth and family-oriented playshop events introduce K–8 students to ways of recognizing, synthesizing, and utilizing data as a “fourth dimension of literacy.”

Nairanjan 'Jan' Dasgupta.

“As data culture becomes the norm, data literacy needs to be part of basic education from an early age,” said Nairanjana “Jan” Dasgupta, WSU Boeing distinguished professor of science/math education who conceived and created the data playshops. “Increasing children’s level of comfort and understanding about using data helps them recognize the many ways they can and already do make data-based decisions in their daily lives.”

Engaging youth and their families in age-appropriate, data-immersive activities can start conversations, create awareness, and pique positive interest in data — before they might be affected by negative attitudes toward math, Dasgupta said.

The lighthearted and fun hands-on activities focus on storytelling, visualization, and using the word “data” frequently. Participants and their families learn ways to collect and evaluate data and how data can be both used and misused.

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