|Databases are great for sorting and sifting information.
Sorting and sifting is an important step in thinking about data. It helps us to identify relationships.
Databases help us explore questions.
In this module you will have a chance to try three database functions:
Do you want to know which baseball player earned the biggest salary?
Use a database to sort the long list of players from highest paid to lowest paid.
Want to compare pitcher salaries with the salaries of outfielders? The database can quickly re-group players by position.
Give sorting a try with data about American teenagers.
1) Start up your database program:
2) From the FILE menu, select OPEN. Look within the CRUNCH directory under datafiles for the teen2 file that works best with your program and open it.
3) Open the file from your database program. (If you are using MicroSoft Access, you will see three different data collections once you open teen.mdb. Select and open teen2.
4) Look over the menus of your program until you find the SORT function. When you select SORT, a dialogue box will appear which will give you a choice of fields by which to sort the data.
5) SORT the states by percentage graduating from high school from highest to lowest. Which state has the largest percentage graduating? Which state has the lowest? Were you surprised by the ranking of any states? Keep track of the top ten states by selecting them and then pasting them into a word processing file.
When you sort information in a database, it automatically keeps all of the data for a particular record together. Even though you can sort data with a spreadsheet, it is far more limited in its sorting capabilities and can easily mix up the data.
Another major function of databases is their ability to group and separate data by characteristics.
A database can take a list of baseball players and extract just the pitchers, if you wish. A database can separate out all the players making more than $2,000,000. It can find all the players making between $200,000 and $500,000.
Give FILTERING a try with the data about American teenagers.
Your workshop leader will demonstrate how to do this.
1) Find the menu in your software program which enables you to find a MATCH (ClarisWorks) or perform a FILTER (Works).
2) Select that function and use it to select only those states which have a high school graduation rate above 80 per cent.
3) Your software program should allow you to view the resulting states separately from the rest. Look at your menu and try out your options.
4) Now look at percentage of children living in poverty. Your software will allow you to separate states within a range. If you want to select all states with more than 20 per cent and less than 30 per cent living in poverty, you may do so by entering a formula.
5) What other MATCHes or FILTERS might be worth pursuing? Work with your partner to complete three more using these data.
Database programs also allow you to calculate. Note the empty field in the Teen database which is called "Increase in Suicide." You will use your database to calculate the increase for each state between 1985 and 1990.
1) Your workshop leader will show you how your software program performs a calculation for you in an empty field.
Please do not move ahead to the next activity until asked to do so by your workshop leader.
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© 2000, Jamie McKenzie. All rights reserved.