Assessing Numbers

Thinking about numbers

Given the amount of information media consumers are exposed to every day, it’s more important than ever that as we read, watch or listen to news, opinion pieces, and other information that we think critically about the numbers that are used to support statements made.

It’s particularly important when we realize that writers and reporters often make mistakes when it comes to the statistics and other figures they cite. It’s not necessary to become a statistician in order to be a more critical media consumer. But it is important to develop at least a nodding acquaintance with mathematical concepts that frequently appear in the media like averages (mean, median, and mode), data visualizations, and common types of probability.

There are strategies anyone can use that will help them determine the validity of the numeric information they encounter every day. The material presented in this section of the Instructional Activities section of this website are designed to help educators and students be successful at determining if the numeric references they are reading, hearing, and watching are trustworthy.

The free materials offered on this site were created for middle school students and educators as supplemental materials for my book entitled The Media-Savvy Middle School Classroom: Strategies for Teaching Against Disinformation, but can be used by anyone who wants to learn these critical media literacy skills.

A Few Caveats

  • This site is meant to be used by teachers. Student Resources are provided, but please do not direct students here. Copy and paste the link to the handouts and whichever of the Online Resources you want students to use on your classroom webpage, in your classroom area of the school’s Learning Management System, or wherever you distribute digital materials to students.
  • The activities are teacher-led and meant to be interactive between the teacher, the students, and online resources.
  • The activities currently posted are most appropriate for middle school students (grades 6 – 8).
  • Activities are not listed in any particular order.
  • Most can be completed in 60 to 120 minutes, depending on your students’ skill levels, but may take longer based on how deeply you decide to explore each topic.
  • Students will gain a more comprehensive understanding of the materials if they are permitted to work in pairs or trios.


  1. Unbelievable! – What are the chances?
  2. Mean, Median, and Mode – Those pesky averages
  3. Data Collection – Survey questions
  4. Data Visualizations – Misleading graphs
  5. Probability – What are the odds?

Susan Brooks-Young: