The Name Game-University of Toledo Analyzes Baby Naming Trends

What is in a name?

Well, a specific time in history according to University of Toledo graduate student  Ram Mukherjee. Ram analyzed data for girl baby names from 1880 to 2004 and found many interesting patterns.

Do you know a Grace? Unless they are over 100 years old, they were probably from the resurgent wave of Grace’s born in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s.

Their research focused on identifying the trends of baby names and found that some were due to influences in popular culture, and others were a slight variation on a more traditional name. The next step is to use their data to try to predict trends for future names.

This article and research could be used by high school math teachers as a brief warm up activity as it includes a graph with the most common names. It could also be used to foster a discussion of data modeling techniques and could spark a discussion of how to view this data to actually make the predictions for the next set of popular names. I think it is also interesting to consider how popular culture impacts something as fundamental as child naming.

Interestingly, the article notes that “out of 104,100 unique names, 64,911 are female and 39,119 are male.” Anyone care to speculate as to why this might be?

Questions for Discussion

  1. How did they analyze this data?
  2. Elizabeth and Kelly were popular in the 1920’s and then surged again together in the 1970’s-any guesses as to why this might be?
  3. Which were some of the least common names?
  4. Do you think it might be better to have a common name, or a unique name? Explain your answer?
  5. How else could you present the data to communicate the important information?



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