Category Archives: Data Visualization

Axios Data Visualization on Uninsured

If you’re like me, you’re watching the both sides of the Congressional healthcare debates sling statistics, money, and tweets at one another. So I found last month’s mapped visualization by Axios to be mesmerizing in the way that it did one thing very well: show how the rate of uninsured Americans shifted under Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act. It doesn’t discuss issues of federal costs, personal expenses, or caliber of coverage, but it does a great job of showing one shifting variable over time: percentage of people with some sort of health insurance versus those with none at all.

The screengrab below shows a static image, but click through to the Axios site so you can see the interactive GIF and see the colors change across time.

Then ask yourself some data viz questions:

  • Axios’ graphic measures by county. How might this look different if it measured by state?
  • How does the color palette influence how you feel about the data? Would more emotional colors like blood-red impact your interpretation?
  • Can you track back to the original data source (a division of the U.S. Census) and try out these questions?


Detail of the book cover to Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

New Book: Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

U.S. map showing animals of various states,

H.W. Hill & Co., Map of the United States, Showing the Farm Animals in Each State. 1878. Public domain. Image courtesy to the book by Rare Maps Inc.

Maps are a powerful, time-honored method of data visualization. And pictorial maps are even more fun, because they often superimpose iconography that represents the points of pride, natural wonders, exports, traditions, even the location of bathrooms. Think of historical maps complete with sea dragons or the state maps from the state reports of our youth, decorated with cars and sheaves of wheat.

The Library of Congress and the University of Chicago Press have a new book out to celebrate the decorated maps of our nation. Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps, was out this week, and just from the cover (below and in featured image) and preview pages I saw, I know I’m going to be hooked on these as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!

Book Cover for Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

Data Literacy at MACUL!

Screenshot of slide deck

Check out our team member Jen Colby’s presentation on data literacy at the MACUL conference this week! She got 60+ converts from this presentation … will you be next?

Speaking of conferences … save the date for the 2nd 4T Data Literacy Conference, coming July 20-21, 2017. Registration opens in a few weeks! Can’t wait? Our parent conference, the 4T Virtual Conference on impactful technology integration, is May 20-22, 2017. Register here!

Data of the Day (Data Visualization): Are you a #HamilFan?

Decorative: image of Polygraph's landing page for "An Interactive Visualization of Every Line in Hamilton"

Check out Shirley Wu’s visualization of each line of lyric from the Broadway hit Hamilton (requires a lot of scrolling down).

Here are some possible discussion questions for your students:

  1. How does this visualization help you gain insight into Hamilton? What, if anything, gets in the way of gaining insight?
  2. How do colors help you understand Hamilton? How do they get in the way?
  3. What kinds of analysis are possible with this tool?
  4. One of the challenges of visualized data is that, unlike spreadsheet data, it cannot be automatically read aloud for those with visual impairments. How would you explain the tool to someone who cannot see the data? What would you add to the tool to make it more accessible for those with visual impairments?
  5. Overall, how do you rate the effectiveness of this visualization? Support your argument with examples from the visualization.

Hope this makes for a conversation that is nonnnnn-stop!


Washington Post: Fascinating Visualizations and Graphs About Manufacturing

The Washington Post has a fascinating series of maps and graphs about the state of manufacturing in the United States.

Here’s a snippet of one of them:


I love newspaper stories like this because you get a wide variety of maps, graphs, and other visualizations that students can use as jumping-off points for discussion and future inquiry.

Click through to take a look at the story, then come back here and think about these questions:

  1. Based on the data shown above, where might a manufacturing worker want to live to have a better chance at job openings?
  2. We keep hearing that the Rust Belt states are in terrible economic shape. Does the data above support that claim? What about other data visualizations in the article?
  3. In the story, compare the various market segment graphs. If you were a high school career counselor and were meeting with a student interested in manufacturing, which market sectors would you encourage her to pursue? Avoid?
  4. Which states would mostly likely respond better to a political candidate who promises to bring back manufacturing jobs? How does that compare to the election results of 2016?
  5. What does the sparsity of dots in the manufacturing maps in the West tell us about manufacturing there? What should we be careful not to assume based on those dots?

What else would you discuss with students?


Data for Discussion: Colleges, Universities, and Diversity

Team member Connie Williams sent a link to to the data graphs below, showing lists of various colleges and universities and their diversity levels.

Shown below is the discussion of the data created by the vendor who created the graphs; here is the data as displayed by the customer,

What do you see in this data and accompanying text? What questions do you have? How would you engage students in “interrogating the data,” as team member Jole Seroff mentioned in her webinar last week?

Data of the Day: Example Infographics from Statista


If you would like to find example infographics, Statista — even the open, non-licensed-version of Statista — has many here.   There’s lots to talk about with these images!  And, who knows??!!  Your students may even want to use the data on these pages for their research projects.

As an example, see The Unrelenting March of Diabetes below.  I was surprised to see Russia included in the European Region.   Note also the interesting use of color and size in the chart below.    Think of the size of the circles in relation to the geographic area they represent.   Now look at the percentage in the circles.   You can barely see the map of the Eastern Mediterranean Region underneath a 13.7% circle.  The percentage listed does not really match how much space it takes up on the maps of the different regions — but we would expect that there would be some sort of relationship there.  The relational size is actually in “mapping” the red circles and orange circles to each other.  If they had made the circles any smaller in order to show the geographic relationships, we probably couldn’t read what was in the circles!

Infographic: The Unrelenting Global March Of Diabetes | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

And, please know, there are a lot of amazing infographics at Statista — Some really good ones!  Check it out!

Image:  “World Map: Abstract Acrylic” by Nicholas Raymond on Flickr and CC BY 2.0