Day 8: See what you want to see

Much of life is taking a lot of information and boiling it down to the parts that are important to us. A grocery store can be an overwhelming place, and if we don’t come in with a plan of what we need, we might find ourselves leaving with a pack of gum, a couple magazines, and a grand plan to pick up dinner from the Taco Bell drive-thru!

The same goes for a spreadsheet. There can be lots of data to look at, and initially it might look a little daunting. In this lesson we’re going to learn how to sort and filter just the good stuff. So what is the “good stuff?” It depends on who you ask! Teachers care about helping struggling learners gain competency, so they might want to sort the grades from highest to lowest to see students who are not earning passing grades. Administrators care about attendance, so they might want to filter to see students who have excessive absences. Using a spreadsheet, you can pretty much filter or sort to see whatever you want to see.

Like graphing, sorting and filtering work slightly differently across different spreadsheet software programs. We’ll customize the text for you if you answer this question: Which one are you using?

Google Spreadsheets
Microsoft Excel

Before we end our discussion on filtering and sorting, we want to take time to confront the serious issue we addressed in the previous exercise. Looking at only one piece of data will not tell a complete story, and the real problems of the educational gaps facing different ethnicities will not be solved on a spreadsheet. That being said, we believe it is extremely important that you understand how to make critical observations that might lead to action that diminishes these gaps. Despite anyone’s thoughts on the matter, this data guide would be remiss to skip over this topic without a proper explanation of where filtering might be most useful.


  • Filters work as data purifiers. Only select what your mind needs!
  • Fetch the data that’s most important to you to make A+ observations.
  • Filtering is most useful when looking at groups or categories of students.

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