Meet FRED's Brother, GeoFRED: Blending Technology, Geography, and Data
Do your middle schoolers need practice interpreting maps and analyzing data? GeoFRED, a data mapping tool from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, blends technology and geography and may be just the answer. Linked to FRED—or Federal Reserve Economic Data—an online database from the St. Louis Fed that houses over 60,000 economic data time series, GeoFRED lets students create their own maps, graphs, charts, and tables. It has numerous features that can help middle schoolers develop their abilities in collecting, interpreting, and reporting data while honing their technology skills and learning some geography. Current and historical data are available on a wide range of topics, from statistics on unemployment, gross domestic product (GDP), and per-capita income to information on health care, housing—and even the amount of money each state collects from hunting and fishing licenses.
GeoFRED allows students to customize the information in numerous ways, from defining a particular area on the map to study (such as a region, state, or county), the frequency of the data reported (monthly, quarterly, annually), how the data are reported (percentages, percentage change, year-over-year changes), and whether the data are reported in equal or fractile intervals. Students can change the number of layers and even the colors that appear, and can collect the data not only on the map but also in graphs and Excel files. They can also save and print maps, and compare several maps to track changes in the data over time.
Below are some ideas for what you can do with this flexible online tool.
Accessing GeoFRED and viewing unemployment rates
The figures for each state now appear on the map.
Have the students analyze the map. Which areas of the country have the highest unemployment? The lowest? Brainstorm possible reasons for the differences seen among states, as well as the results for their own state.
The data in the map is displayed in five classes at fractile intervals, which categorize the data so that each interval holds the same number of data points.
Note: The remaining procedures assume you are already on the GeoFRED site.
Changing the way data display
Viewing individual states
Now have your students compare rates of unemployment between areas across one state.
Ask students look for areas or counties in the state with the highest and lowest unemployment rates. Ask them to brainstorm possible reasons for the differences they see, as well as industries in these areas that may be affecting employment positively or negatively.
Other information from GeoFRED
When you use this tool for teaching geography in the middle school grades, you are limited only by your imagination.
By Lesley Mace, economic and financial education specialist with the Jacksonville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
March 1, 2013