A science need: Designing tasks to engage students in modeling complex data

Richard Lesh, James Middleton, Elizabeth Caylor, Shweta Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In this information age, the capacity to perceive structure in data, model that structure, and make decisions regarding its implications is rapidly becoming the most important of the quantitative literacy skills. We build on Kaput's belief in a Science of Need to motivate and direct the development of tasks and tools for engaging students in reasoning about data. A Science of Need embodies the utility value of mathematics, and engages students in seeing the importance of mathematics in both their current and their future lives. An extended example of the design of tasks that require students to generate, test, and revise models of complex data is used to illustrate the ways in which attention to the contributions of students can aid in the development of both useful and theoretically coherent models of mathematical understanding by researchers. Tools such as Fathom are shown as democratizing agents in making data modeling more expressive and intimate, aiding in the development of deeper and more applicable mathematical understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Data modeling
  • Mathematical applications
  • Model eliciting activities
  • Modeling
  • Models
  • Technology
  • Visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Mathematics


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