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The Olympic Flame: Are You in the 95%?

flame iconThe Olympic flame toured the UK, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey between 19 May and 27 July 2012.  It was claimed that it would come within 10 miles of 95% of the population of these areas.

Was this true?  Did it pass 10 miles or less from where you live?

Use the Getting to the Point tool at Sport at School to find out.

We want you to help us find out how good that 95% estimate actually is.
When you've found out your distance from the route, vote in our poll (below).
You'll then see what the results are looking like - so far, it seems that a little more than three quarters of us live within 10 miles of the route, which means that almost a quarter of us don't.  But as our sample grows, this may change ...

Of course, it may be that you're more likely to vote in this poll if you think you're not in the 95%.  What effect do you think this will have on the reliability of the result?  Do you think that the way we asked the question might affect whether people are likely to respond or not?



Collect the data for your class.  

  • How many of you live within 10 miles (either by road or as the crow flies) of the route?
  • What measures might you use to test your class data? 
  • Originally the route was intended to be within an hour's travel of at least 95% of the population.  Use Google maps to get an estimate of travel times for people in your class.  Are you in this 95%?

Click here for a poster of this problem.

Why do this problem?

Are you struck by the claim that the Olympic flame, on its tour round the country, will pass within 10 miles of 95% of the population of the UK, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey?  I live in Cambridgeshire, and even a cursory examination of the map showing the route indicates that many of us in this area are rather more than 10 miles from the route.  What about your area?

Challenging this claim will provide students with an opportunity to check their own distance from the route, and then to collect data for the class. This can be compared with data nationally, or within a particular region of the UK, using the distance tool for the torch relay on the Sport at School website.

This is an interesting context in which to look at comparing data sets using averages and spread.  

Possible approach

Ask the class how many of them think they live within 10 miles of the torch route, then use the link to the distance tool to find out.  How many of them live within 10 miles?  Is it at least 95% of them?  Get them to fill in the online poll, then use the online poll to see how other classes have responded.

"Do you think our class is typical? What sort of different answers do you think classes would get in different schools, rural ones, urban ones, big schools, little schools...?"

There are datasets available from the Sport at School website to follow up on this discussion.

Then collect the data on distances - either as the crow flies or by road - for the class.  Then calculate an average (which one?) and a measure of spread (which one?) to characterise the data.

For a different context in which to explore the importance of considering spread as well as average, see How Would You Score It?


Key questions

What does an average tell us about our data?

Which average should we use?  Why?

What are the advantages of using that average?  What are the disadvantages?

Is the average enough on its own to tell us all we need to know about our data?  Why not?

Which measure of spread should we use (if students know more than one)?  Why?

What are the advantages and disadvantages?


Possible extension

Returning to the distance tool will allow students to compare their data with other data sets from schools around the country or in a particular region.


Possible support

This task can be accessed at lots of different levels, with the analysis depending on the stage of understanding of the learners.