I like to start off my two-way tables unit by polling the class about something, like whether they think people in our class who play sports are more likely to also play a musical instrument. The kids love it! They understand right away how two-way tables are set up and everyone wants to vote! But then when I want to give them some different sets of data to analyze I can never come up with anything that’s very motivating. The examples in the textbook include a variety of boring contexts that range from how many arbitrary 7th graders and 8th graders chose English as their favorite class to what sizes and colors of t-shirts a made-up store sold.

This year I was thrilled to come across a lesson plan created by Chris Shore that gives students two-way tables with Titanic passenger data to analyze. This lesson plan particularly piqued my interest because I’m an occasional docent at the house museum of the Unsinkable Molly Brown and possess an abundance of Titanic facts that I don’t get to share very often. The Titanic two-way tables were interesting to talk about and led the kids to ask lots of questions. I also liked using them because they presented a motivation for wanting to calculate relative frequencies. Since the number of men on the ship was so much greater than the number of women it made sense to find percentages in order to compare how much more likely it was that a woman survived than a man. Any other examples of intriguing two-way tables that you’ve used?