- What is Census at School?
- What teachers are saying
- Why teachers are using it
- Role of the Statistical Society of Canada
Census at School is an international online project that engages students from grades 4 to 12 in statistical enquiry. The project began in the United Kingdom in 2000 and now includes participation from schools in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. The Canadian component of Census at School is hosted by the Statistical Society of Canada.
Students in each participating country anonymously fill in an online survey in class. They answer non-confidential questions about topics such as their height, the time it takes to travel to school, and their favourite subject at school. The responses become part of a national database, which is later added to an international database that is maintained in the United Kingdom.
Teachers can access the results of their own class’ survey in the form of a spreadsheet to use in teaching. Students enjoy comparing their class data to summary tables of Canadian results. They can also request random responses from the international database to compare themselves with students in other countries.
Some of the questions on the Canadian survey are common to all participating countries; others were developed in Canada. None of the survey questions asks for confidential or identifiable personal information. Responses remain anonymous as no names or identification numbers are attached to them.
This project combines fun with learning, to the delight of hundreds of thousands of students around the world who have already participated. They discover how to use and interpret data about themselves as part of their classroom learning in math, social sciences or information technology. They also learn about the importance of the national census in providing essential information for planning education, health, transportation and many other services.
Census at School offers students a golden opportunity to be involved in the collection and analysis of their own data and to experience what a census is like.
“I used Census at School to introduce the Statistics unit in my Grade 11 Mathematic Foundation course. The students used a printed handout of the class results to work with the “Do you have big feet?” activity. This gave me an idea of their prior knowledge and skills in sampling, analyzing data, graphing data, looking for bias in results and drawing conclusions.”
—Joanna Wilson, Grade 11 teacher, Digby, Nova Scotia
“My students got more out of this project than any text book or teacher could communicate.”
—Larry Scanlon, primary-intermediate special education teacher, Waterloo, Ontario
“We worked on measurement, data management, graphic displays of data, estimating, and different ways of recording data. It’s a lot more fun to use data of a personal nature.”
—Kimberly Burstall, primary teacher, Halifax, Nova Scotia
“It’s easier for students to create graphs using real information. I think it’s a great way to teach kids about the census.”
—Danuta Woloszynowicz, teacher librarian, Barrie, Ontario
“Census at School allows for joint applications in mathematics, French and social sciences. When students use these data to answer questions that matter to them, they gain awareness that mathematics is a precious tool for understanding the world we live in.”
—France Caron, math education professor, Université de Montréal, Québec
“This survey gave the students the opportunity to ‘connect’ with the outside world. In our social studies curriculum, we discuss the importance of our roles in society. The survey reinforced our uniqueness and our sameness at the same time!”
—Brenda Hillaby, Grade 5 teacher, Aurora, Ontario
“Census at School offers generalist teachers an exciting tool for engaging their students in project-based mathematical learning within a social studies context.”
—Ralph Mason, math education professor, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg
“I have been participating in the Census at School program for the last two years, and love it! I use it to do an entire unit on data analysis. My students look back on this as one of their most favourite parts of the year in Math. They use the data to learn about population, sample, survey design, and then analyze the data for mean, median, mode, range. They also draw graphs of all sorts, exploring the relationships between data and sharing the conclusions that can be drawn from that type of information.”
— Julie Hearn, Grade 6 and 7 teacher, Maple Ridge, B.C.
In a 2008 survey of teachers who had registered to the project, we asked: “Why did you use Census at School with your students?” Here are some of the answers we received:
- To make students’ learning interactive and more fun.
- To study distribution of data, discrete and continuous variation, mean, median, and mode.
- To improve computer skills and give students an opportunity to manipulate data into different visual formats.
- To cover curriculum outcomes in data management for Grade 8 and Grade 9 in N.S.
- To illustrate the concept of diversity and help students feel valued and proud of their ethnicity. We also used it in Math and History (in a unit on Canada).
- For the data management strand in Grade 8 Mathematics (Ontario): graphing and comparing data.
- I used the collected information to teach ratio, decimals and percent. Because the data came from them, the students were quite eager to do the assignments.
- It’s a good way to integrate computers into my lessons.
- It allows students to work with real data. The suggested lessons are useful and often well connected to the curriculum.
- It was a unique and interesting way to meet the data analysis learning outcomes for Math 7 in British Columbia.
- I find the curriculum for Social Studies 10 a bit dry, so I like to have activities that are more engaging and “hands-on”. I see statistical literacy as an important part of critical thinking.
- It made curriculum outcomes for data and graphing come alive. The students loved taking measurements of their body areas as well as using the data to make graphs. They liked knowing that data about themselves was part of the collected data – it made them feel important and valued.
- This activity is inherently interesting for teens and it gives them an opportunity to move beyond simply reading and interpreting tables of data.
- It’s a good introduction to scatter plots. Using the students’ own data engages them to learn and better understand the graphing and statistical concepts taught in class.
- It seemed like a perfect way to engage students with real data. We used the collected information with Tinkerplots software and it was a great way to tie in Math with Technology.
- It was an interesting real-life practical application for data management.
Census at School aims to:
- provide real data for data management activities across the curriculum;
- show how information and communications technology (ICT) can be used effectively in teaching and learning;
- raise awareness of the national census, how it gathers data, and its benefits to society;
- develop statistical literacy skills in students.
Classroom participation in this project is completely voluntary.
The Canadian component of the international Census at School project is run by the Statistical Society of Canada. The mission of the Statistical Society of Canada is to encourage the development and use of statistics and probability, including helping to develop a public awareness of the value of statistical thinking and the importance of statistics and statisticians in Canadian society and promoting the highest possible standards for statistical education and practice in Canada.
The Statistical Society of Canada gratefully acknowledges the substantial contributions of Statistics Canada to this project. Through its Education Outreach program under the leadership of Mary Townsend, Statistics Canada developed Census at School Canada and operated it from 2003 to 2012.