Teaching Data Science to Middle School Students

Do you think teaching data science to middle school students is possible? Can 8th grade students really learn how to solve data science problems? How about identifying what class of machine learning problem they will need to solve? I had no idea if it was possible, so I decided to try it out! With 4.5 hours over 3 days I attempted to  teach middle school students how to predict titanic survivors on Kaggle.com. How’d it go? Freaking awesome!

Students were tasked with learning how to identify a problem that can be solved with machine learning and then distinguish which class of machine learning algorithm would be most effective in solving said problem. Students took this one step further and, using kaggle.com datasets, were able to build a model to predict if a passenger would survive the titanic crash. Students were able to create models with 92% accuracy over their training set!

Schedule

Day1: What is data science?

  • Who, What, When, Where, and Why Data Science
  • Identifying the different types of Data Science Problems
  • Survey about the classes interest

Day 2: Data Science with Azure ML

  • Visualize the classes interest survey
  • The data science process/framework
  • Interactive exercise using the kids as data points to visualize test, train, repeat process
  • Instructor led lab on predicting if an individual makes > or < $50,000

Day 3: Hands on Lab/Kaggle.com competition!

  • How-old.net recap
  • Lab/competition to score highest on the Titanic kaggle challenge!

What did the students learn?

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Student feedback

What was your favorite part about this class?

  • “I really enjoyed the hacking”
  • “Making a model on our own.”
  • “It was interesting and doable! It was really fun.”
  • “Just being exposed to such complex things was pretty cool”

What would have made the class better?

  • “Making it 5 days instead of 3”

Would I do this again? Absolutely! And you should too. All the resource we created and used are on my github. Also make sure to let me know if you use it and it’s helpful! Who would have thought teaching data science to middle school students would be so easy 🙂

Happy teaching,

~Andrew

 

2 thoughts on “Teaching Data Science to Middle School Students

  1. Shashank Srikant

    Yes, we definitely think data science can be taught well to high-schoolers! Do go through our effort which we’re scaling across different locations – datasciencekids.org
    We have a paper presented on our pedagogy at SIGCSE 2017 titled “Introducing Data Science to School Kids”.
    Here’s a copy: http://research.aspiringminds.com/publications/

    Would be great to know your thoughts and probably be involved in organizing more tutorials.

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