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Real Statistics

Age 7 to 11
Challenge Level

Real Statistics

Census at School is an international project which collects data from children in participating countries all around the world, and makes it available for anyone to look at.

The table below contains data that 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:

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?

What questions would you like to ask about the data?

Conduct your own survey on how everyone usually 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 school or secondary school 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?

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. (You may find it helpful to give learners a copy of the problem by printing this sheet.) Listen out for children who are suggesting plausible reasons for the pattern of data. In a mini plenary you can invite everyone to share their thoughts, and to offer some questions of their own. 
This discussion will be a good precursor for learners 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. You could add comments from the children to the display as they make comparisons with the original data.
Although the UK no longer takes part in Census at School, other countries do (for example Ireland) and you can see the questionnaires as well as the reports from previous years online. 

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 can help pupils present their findings in a number of different ways.