Visualizing statistics with Gapminder World

You may have seen the TED videos where Hans Rosling shows some amazing statistics then shows how the statistics change over time.  I know the first time I saw his presentation showing how life expectancy and family size has changed over the last 45 years I was not only amazed at the data but how he displayed the data as well.  Much like Hans Rosling himself, the graphs were dynamic and colorful.  To get a sense of what I’m talking about, check out this TED video on Hans Rosling showing “the best statistics you’ve ever seen.”

One of my first thoughts when seeing the TED presentation was “How can I get my hands on that software?”  Well, now all of us can.  The software, called Gapminder World, is available online as a web-based application and as a free download for off-line use.  It would be a great addition to a presentation that discusses world-wide data or a lesson focuses on changes that have happened historically. Want to see how international math scores relate to income?  You can check it out here.  Want to see how life expectancy has changed over the last 200 years around the world?  You can see that here.  The site offers a menu of topics that can be visualized but also allows users to customize graphs by selecting from different data sets to show.  My only reservation about the application is the data sets available.  While there are pages and pages of data sets available to visualize, the information isn’t always consistent.   Some of the data sets are really expansive, drawing from hundreds of countries over decades of time.  Other data sets have less information from international sources or only has data from a few years.  I’m sure this is to be expected considering the variety of collection methods that different countries use. The site is very easy to use and a video tutorial and a users manual are available for first time users.  The site also offers great teaching resources for how educators can use Gapminder World in their classrooms.  I’ve included links for all of these resources below.

Gapminder World Tutorial

Gapminder World Users Manual

Gapminder World Teaching Resources

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