This problem is intended to encourage children to develop their skills in data analysis, and to be critical of the way in which data are presented to them.
Present the children with the table to look at and invite them to tell you about what it shows. Explain where it comes from and why it might have been made. Encourage the children to look at the variation in the numbers of medals of different types or the totals or both.
How are the nations ordered?
Are there nations that have the same numbers of gold medals? Of silver medals? Of bronze medals?
Are they next to each other in the table? Why do you think this is so?
Do you think the system for ordering the nations is fair? Why?
Encourage the children to think creatively about scoring systems such as 3 points for a gold, 2 for a silver and 1 for a bronze, and investigate the impact this would have on the order.
Further investigations might help the children to offer each nation advice about the sports they should focus on to maximise their position in the table. They would need to find and examine further data to do this.
Can they work out a system that is 'fair' but puts their favourite nation at the top?
It might be interesting to consider other factors that affect perception of performance at the Olympics, such as population and wealth - see this Plus article for further discussion.
Encourage children to tell you and each other about the meaning of the data in the table. You could begin by asking straightforward questions such as:
How many gold medals does China have?
Which country is top of the table?
Once they have a good idea of the meaning of the data, they may be able to go on to consider the main task.