I Love Charts

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

I saw this on the Flowingdata RSS feed this morning. It is so cute, it makes my ovaries hurt. Thrill as PBS teaches kids the joys of the pictorial representation of data.


  1. Um, you what you call pain in your ovaries over a kid’s video?

    The alarm going off on your biological clock.

  2. that is the geekiest thing I’ve seen in a long time. a rallying cry for the future geeks of the world! “charts rule!!!”

  3. @ Cildar

    From the Reduced Shakespeare Company

    “Cut the crap Hamlet, my biological clock is ticking, and I want babies NOW!”

    …that’s all i could think of when i read your comment.

  4. My daughter loves that show; it does a very good job of balancing education and entertainment.

    She’s 3 and actually hates most TV; kind of drives me nuts since she won’t watch a movie with me. :(

  5. Not bad at all, but compared to Schoolhouse Rock, it’s still second-rate.

    Compare this to the lifelong educational value of “I’m just a Bill” for teaching civics, or “We the People” for teaching kids the preamble to the Constitution of the United States.

    You go talk to an American (or yes, a Canadian) kid in their mid-40s, I bet a majority will be able to recite the premble to the U.S. Constitution…but they’ll have to sing it mentally to remember it.

  6. There is something amiss with that weather calendar chart. They say “Clouds on Friday” and zoom into a tile that is in the 5th column, suggesting this is a Monday-Sunday calendar. But then they say “Rain on Monday” and zoom to a tile that is in the 2nd column, suggesting this is a Sunday-Saturday week. And then the last “Sun on Sunday” is located in the 7th column, bringing us back to the original layout. Tell us, PBS, which one is it? You are disorienting our children’s understanding of a chart that may not, after all, be a work of art!

  7. Cute and “Yay, kids!” and all that.

    But people of my generation had Schoolhouse Rock growing up. They had real musicians like Bob Dorough & Blossom Dearie performing real songs to teach us how to make laws and use language and shoot pool… I mean, count by 9.

    This song, admirable as it is, has all the musical appeal of a floor wax jingle.

  8. Kurtmac: Yes. Also I noticed none of the charts had textual labels. The ambiguity of the weather chart that you point out could have been avoided if a simple SMTWTFS had been printed across the top.

    But they probably avoid written text entirely. Many kids shows are fixated on international sales and reversioning, likely to the detriment of their educational value, since it then presents a world where the written word doesn’t exist.

  9. The music is meh. I’m eagerly awaiting the Kutiman remix, tho…

    sounds like they are using autotune…curse of a musical generation.

  10. Great concept and execution but she’s sharp pretty much throughout the song. If you’re gonna use Autotune, use it correctly.

  11. My 6yo loves this show too :)

    For a while she was singing/shouting “Chicken-o Charts” after this episode aired :)

  12. Here to say that my 3-year-old daughter also loves Sid the Science Kid. She also likes “Hey Cow” from the Old School Sesame Street DVD (Yay, Joe Raposo).

  13. Ovaryaches are no laughing matter, but I’m laughing. Regardless of what anyone else says, though, the remedy is NOT having children. Just ask my Mom.

  14. Dunno about what it did to your ovaries, but my ears hurt from that singing. Do I like charts enough to listen agai…mmmm… maybe

  15. As one of the Tufte Army, I’m a bit queasy about all the 3D bar charts, 3D pie charts, no units or labels, blah blah blah…but if it gets kids excited about trying to represent numbers visually, it’s all good.

  16. @Birdguy, you’re aware that this is essentially a Tufte Army recruiting tool? Lousy layout, powerpoint aesthetics, and vague presentation are then drilled out in basic training…

  17. No, if they were really recruiting for the Tufte Army all the charts would be in black and white. ;)

    Sid the Science Kid is great for teaching kids about science. My kids were fascinated with the show about decomposition (the kids on the show got to ‘investigate’ a moldy pumpkin). Another less it taught my 2.5 year old daughter basic life science, like melting and reflection. Joan Cusack narrates, how awesome is that?

  18. I find charts (and infomation visualisation in general) a very big deal. I suppose it’s inevitable that they would use pie charts as a (frequent) example, but it does make me wince.

    But perhaps a more significant criticism is that they didn’t make the fundamental point about charts strong enough: why would you want to make “information you can see with your eyes”? The answer is that information can be presented in ways that hide the truth, or at least hide aspects of it that you would otherwise not know. I’m no educator or film-maker, but at some point I would have had a bunch of tabular data morphing into a chart of some kind. That’s the fundamental point they fail to make.

  19. @ #7: Exactly what I was thinking. Not to mention the background shouts of “Maybe, maybe not!”

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