From Analyzing Homelessness Statistics to Collecting Data in the Community

Cal State LA students participating in the Los Angeles Homeless Count in the neighborhoods around campus.

Cal State LA students were motivated by analyzing homelessness statistics to taking action in their community. Explore how CourseKata leverages students' curiosity to drive their math learning. #DataForGood

Classroom Experiences that Spark Curiosity 

Using CourseKata materials, an online platform designed to enhance learning through real data analysis, Cal State LA students investigated their hypotheses about what causes homelessness in thousands of counties. This exploration was not just about numbers, not just about coding; it was a gateway to understanding the messy complexities in the world, often finding out that the world is not how we believed it to be!

The dataset on homelessness sparked such curiosity among the students that they started debating the implications of how such data gets collected. Did you know that this data is annually collected by an army of volunteers all over the United States during three nights in January? Cal State LA students ventured out of the computer lab and into the streets to participate directly in the 2024 Los Angeles Homeless Count on January 25.

Hitting the Concrete Streets

Students ate pizza together before heading out on a cold Los Angeles night in groups of 3 to various census tracks around Cal State LA. Students were able to go beyond scatter plots and concretely experience the importance of how data represents an individual's life story. The experience was transformative, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom and consequential societal issues.

This hands-on involvement exemplifies the core philosophy of CourseKata, using curiosity students have about the world to motivate the learning of complex formal statistical concepts. This is a model of education that naturally bring the real world into the classroom and motivates students to take the classroom into the world! Data analysis using R coding, Jupyter notebooks, and General Linear Modeling led to active participation in community issues, fostering more empathy, curiosity, and social action. 

The Promise of Data Stories

Behind every dataset lies a story that deserves attention and action. Statistics and math courses can be transformed by interweaving those stories with learning formal concepts. This is the promise of bringing data into the classroom: that academic learning can engage with and contribute to the communities around us.

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