Analyzing Drug-Use Data from Monitoring the Future

This activity is designed to help students in grades 9 through 12 understand how to obtain, analyze, and interpret data, and to argue from evidence, using data from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey on teens’ self-reported use of drugs.

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Lesson Plan Highlights:

  • Questions for students
  • Stats and trends
  • Teacher's guide

Grade Level(s):

9,  10,  11,  12 

Student Skills:

  • Analyzing and interpreting information, data, and/or evidence
  • Calculating percentage change
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading comprehension

Time / Duration:

  • 30 minutes

Materials:

  • Computer and internet access
  • Paper and pencil or pen
  • Calculator or calculator app

Languages:

  • English

Academic Standards:

    National Health Education Standards

    • 2. Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors
    • 3. Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid information, products, and services to enhance health

Student Objectives

By the end of the lessons, students will be able to:

  • Know how to read and understand different ways of presenting survey findings that measure teen drug use.
  • Understand specific changes (measured in percentages) in teens’ use of drugs and alcohol over the past several years.

This activity is designed to be delivered either virtually or in person.

Teacher Preparation

Background and Objectives for Educators

Monitoring the Future (MTF) is an annual survey that measures self-reported drug and alcohol use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide. The survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, and is conducted by the University of Michigan.

MTF measures drug use in percentages, with changes recorded year to year. Teen participants are asked to report “daily” use, “lifetime” use, “past-year” use, and “past-month” use.

For tobacco and marijuana, the survey also asks for “daily” use. For alcohol, it asks for drinking behaviors, such as binge drinking or getting drunk.

Review

To Prepare

  • Make sure students have individual or group access to a Chromebook, laptop, or smartphone. 
  • Email students the link to this lesson, Analyzing Drug Use Data From Monitoring the Future so they can follow along and complete the activities. Or you can print off copies of the lesson, starting at the Student Activity section.
  • Make sure students have access to paper, a writing utensil (pencil with eraser is preferred) and a basic calculator.

Student Activity

  1. Monitoring the Future (MTF) is an annual survey that measures self-reported drug and alcohol use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide. The survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, and is conducted by the University of Michigan. MTF reports drug use in percentages, with changes recorded year to year. Teen participants are asked to report “lifetime” use, “past-year” use, “past-month” use, and “daily” use.

Use the interactive chart on the Stats & Trends in Teen Drug Use with Interactive Chart page to help complete Parts 1-4 of this lesson.  

  1. Activity: Create a Line Chart
    1. In the “Drug” field, select one option from the drop-down menu. Be sure to uncheck any other boxes that are already checked, then select “Apply”.
    2. Next, in the “Year” field, select at least two options from the drop-down menu. Be sure to uncheck any other boxes that are already checked, then select “Apply”.
    3. Continue to the “Duration” field and select one option (choose “daily”, “lifetime”, “past month”, or “past year”). Be sure to uncheck any other boxes that are already checked, then select “Apply”.
    4. Continue to “Grade” and select at least two grade options. Uncheck any boxes that are already checked, then select “Apply”. You should see at least two lines (red, orange, and/or blue) on the graph that display the results for the options you selected in steps 1 through 3.
  1. Activity: Complete Data Table. Using the table below or copying this table to your own blank sheet of paper or blank document on your computer, fill in the blanks for survey year, student grade, and the percent usage data for each year and grade level from your line graph exercise.
Student Grade Survey Year
                   
                     
                     
                     

Sample Table:

Trends in Perceived Harmfulness of Regular Marijuana Use by 8th, 10th, and 12th Graders (percent who selected "great risk"*)
Student Grade Survey Year
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
12th grade 46.8 45.7 44.1 39.5 36.1 31.9 31.1 29.0 26.7 30.3
10th grade 57.2 55.2 50.9 46.5 45.4 43.2 44.0 40.6 38.1 39.6
8th grade 68.0 69.3 66.9 61.0 58.9 58.0 57.5 54.8 52.9 52.3
*The survey answer choices were: (1) No risk, (2) Slight risk, (3) Moderate risk, (4) Great risk, and (5) Can't say, drug unfamiliar.

Line graphs (like the ones you just created with the interactive chart) represent data. Bar graphs are another way to represent data. Like line graphs, bar graphs have a horizontal x-axis and a vertical y-axis. Sometimes, data shown in a table can also be effectively shown in a bar graph.

Once your table is complete, use a sheet of paper (or a blank document on a computer – it can be the same one you used in Part 1A) to create a bar graph that represents the percent usage data for each year and grade level. Remember to label your x-axis and y-axis!

Statistical Significance

Part of analyzing data is reporting on whether results are “statistically significant.” Statistical significance “describes a mathematical measure of difference between groups. The difference is said to be statistically significant if it is greater than what might be expected to happen by chance alone.” Statistical significance (sometimes called p-value) does not measure the size of an effect or explain the importance of a result. Rather, statistical significance reports a meaningful difference between experimental groups. (Sources: National Cancer InstituteAmerican Statistical Association

  1. Activity: Review the data. Now review the results in the bar graph. Write a paragraph analyzing the data, making sure to answer at least three of following questions:
    1. What surprised you about the data?
    2. What about the data was notable or interesting?
    3. What questions do you have about what you see on the graph?
    4. Was the pattern you saw consistent from year to year? What changed?
    5. What might be some reasons why drug or alcohol use increased, decreased, or remained the same?
    6. What do you think could be causing the changes (decreases or increases) in rates of drug or alcohol use from year to year?

Calculating Percent Change

Percent Change = New Value − Old Value  × 100
                                          Old Value

If the result is positive, it’s an increase.
If the result is negative, it’s a decrease.

  1. Activity: Interpret the Data. Use the percent change formula above to answer the next four questions related to teens’ drug use.
    1. Looking at the most recent year of data, how did the percentage of 10th graders who reported daily nicotine vaping change from the year prior? Did it increase or decrease? What was the percentage change between these two rates?
    2. How did the percentage of 10th graders who reported nicotine vaping in the past month change from the year prior? Did it increase or decrease? What was the percentage change between these two rates?
    3. How did the percentage of 10th graders who reported nicotine vaping in the past year change from the year before that (year prior)? Did it increase or decrease? What was the percentage change between these two rates?
    4. How did the percent changes differ between selected durations (e.g., daily, past month, past year)?
  2. Additional Resources. Now that you understand more about how to interpret and analyze data, you might have questions related to the topics you just learned about. Check out these resources for answers:

Monitoring the Future: Interactive Chart