How Can We Support Data Literacy in Middle Schoolers?

As decisions become increasingly data-driven, the ability to interrogate data is emerging as a key skill for self-advocacy. Unfortunately, marginalized communities most heavy impacted by algorithmic decision making are often those least prepared to question those decisions.

With this issue in mind, my graphic design advanced studio worked with SAS to design data literacy tools for middle schoolers to use outside of the traditional classroom.

Their design prompt:

Design an interactive tool to teach data concepts to middle schoolers.

The tool should:

  • Explain data concepts and their relevance to understanding a sample dataset
  • Enable users to try out the concepts.
  • Allow users to share and communicate their findings in a compelling manner.

Students worked in groups for this 9 week project. Each group worked with one of three data concepts: Distributions, Correlations, or Clusters.

Final Scenario Videos of Student Work

Student designers: Kennedy Liggett, Joseph Rogers, Rachel Thomas

Student designers: Cole Ferguson, Rachael Pollock, Anna Schecterson

Student designers: Abbey Carr, Anya Gunturi, Darron Klett

Student Designers: Britney Balmer, Felix Chang, Katelyn Watkins

Student designers: Chris Bullock, Max Ganch, Lauren Rapier

The Research Process

Panel discussion with local middle school math teachers.


Key findings from teachers: middle-school kids are narrative driven, want to know why/relevance, Distract with short attention spans, "into me," competitive with one another, love pop culture mediums, like to work in teams


personas and scenarios


As Is user journey maps


Benchmarking current educational tools for middle-schoolers as well as online data literacy tools for adults


Ideation exercises. Students use slips of paper with various prompts to respond improv style


sketches and storyboards


Several rounds of in-person critiques with SAS


Wireframes and task flows


Second round of critiques with prototype images


"To Be" user journey map


Hi-fi prototypes and scenario videos