These lessons may not be used for professional development
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What can we do with all these numbers?

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:

  • sorting
  • matching or filtering
  • calculating



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.

Team Player Salary Position

Baltimore Orioles

Chris Sab

$ 2,000,000

Baltimore Orioles

Chris Hoiles

$ 2,000,000

Baltimore Orioles

Harold Baines

$ 1,800,000

Baltimore Orioles

Lee Smith

$ 1,500,000

Baltimore Orioles

Mark McLemore

$ 1,000,000

Baltimore Orioles

Mike Mussina

$ 750,000

Baltimore Orioles

Lonnie Smith

$ 750,000

Baltimore Orioles

Jamie Moyer

$ 725,000

Baltimore Orioles

Tim Hulett

$ 550,000

Baltimore Orioles

Mark Eichhorn

$ 525,000

Baltimore Orioles

Leo Gomez

$ 500,000

Baltimore Orioles

Alan Mills

$ 500,000

Baltimore Orioles

Mark Wilhamson

$ 350,000

Baltimore Orioles

Jim Poole

$ 270,000

Baltimore Orioles

Arthur Rhodes

$ 230,000

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:

    • Microsoft Works
    • ClarisWorks
    • Microsoft Access
    • or some other 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.

Hint: In Microsoft Works look for the RECORD menu.
In Clarisworks look for the ORGANIZE menu.
In Access look for the RECORDS menu.

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.

6) Now SORT the states by the percentage of children living in poverty from lowest percentage to highest. How many of the ten states with the highest graduation percentages also had the fewest children living in poverty? Can you draw a connection?

6) Now SORT the states by median income from highest to lowest. How many of the ten states with the highest graduation percentages also ranked in the top ten for median income? Can you draw a connection?

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).

Hint: In Microsoft Works look for the TOOLS menu.
In Clarisworks look for the ORGANIZE menu.
In Access look for the RECORDS menu.

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.

Hint: In Microsoft Works you can insert a new field name and then when its name appears in "List View" you can select that field and enter a formula in the formula box on top.
In Clarisworks look for the LAYOUT menu for DEFINE FIELDS. When you select this option, you may change the field type for "Increase in Suicide" to "calculation" and it will ask for a formula.
In Access, look for the menu.
MicroSoft Access performs calculations as part of the Query function. Your workshop leader will demonstrate how this works.
2) Many datasets provide raw data. Unless you or your students calculate percentages or rates of change, these raw data may not mean much. To explore interesting questions, you must combine all three features of databases, sorting, matching or filtering and calculating.
3) Now practice making more calculations. Open this database and calculating changes.
    • Microsoft Works - select teen3.wdb
    • ClarisWorks - select teen3 (DB)
    • Microsoft Access - select teen3
4) More practice . . .
    • Microsoft Works - select teen4.wdb
    • ClarisWorks - select teen4 (DB)
    • Microsoft Access - select teen4

Please do not move ahead to the next activity until asked to do so by your workshop leader.

Return to list of activities

Copyright Notice: 2000, FNO PRESS, all rights reserved. These lessons may not be used for professional development without purchase of a site license. The icons are used with permission from Jay Boersma, whose site can be found at http://www.ECNet.Net/users/gas52r0/Jay/home.html

© 2000, Jamie McKenzie. All rights reserved.