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Real Statistics

Do you know about Census at School? It is a project which collects data from children all around the world and makes it available on their website for anyone to look at.

This table comes from an old page on the Census at School website. This data was collected from the first questionnaires in Autumn 2000 and includes responses from children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It shows how pupils travel to school:

travel to school table

Which is the most popular way of getting to school for primary pupils?
How about for secondary pupils?
Can you think of any reasons why these might be different?
Which is the most common way of travelling to school overall?
Can you explain why this answer is different again?
What do you think the "Other" category means?

Conduct your own survey on how everyone gets to school, perhaps in your class or year group.
Present your results in a table, chart or graph and please send it in to us.
Compare your findings to those in the table (you might want to look just at the primary or secondary data, depending on how old you are).
How are your results different?
Are there any similarities?
Can you think of any reasons why your findings might be different or similar?

Don't forget that Census at School is always looking for more data, so if you would like your class or school to take part, then you could talk to your teacher.

Why do this problem?

This problem is a great way for children to interrogate data and really think about possible reasons for trends, rather than just accepting conclusions without digging deeper. They have an opportunity not just to interpret data, but to collect data for a purpose (comparison).

Possible approach

You could look at the table as a whole class and encourage learners to discuss the questions in groups which would be a good precursor for them conducting their own survey. Encourage presentation of their findings in a variety of different ways so that you can build a display in the classroom.

Once their results are displayed (perhaps several days later), you can gather the group as a whole to look at them collectively. By printing off a copy of the table in the problem as well, you could add comments from the children to the display as they make comparisons.

Census at School is a fantastic resource for teaching data handling. You can download raw data as well as tables such as the one in this problem and there are suggestions for classroom activities (for example using spreadsheets). Do remember that your class or school can take part and contribute to the growing data sets.

Key questions

How will you collect your own data?
Will you ask everyone individually?
How will you record what they say?
How many people are you going to ask?
How will you work out the percentage of people using each method of travel?

Possible extension

Children could be encouraged to interrogate other surveys in newspapers or magazines in a similar way. You could collect some suitable articles for them to look at and challenge them to ask questions about the data presented.

Possible support

Software packages will help pupils present their findings in a number of different ways.