How do people get to work?


In this unit students explore and represent given (national travel) data, and identify patterns. They design and carry out an investigation of their classmates’ travel modes to school, present and compare class data with national data, looking for patterns and providing a rationale for these. Students are also asked to predict domestic travel patterns in the future.

Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Interpret information from graphs
  • Make statements based on data shown on graphs
  • Identify the most suitable graph to show survey results
Description of Mathematics

A dot plot represents data as dots on a scale. Students use place value knowledge as they use a scale and convert numeric data to representative dots. As students create dot plots, they see how much easier the display makes the relative comparison of those data.

As students explore and represent category data on bar graph they see how clearly the number of items in a category are shown and the differences between categories.

Required Resource Materials
Graphing materials (either Excel or similar or graph paper etc.)



Session 1

Provide your students with this information.

In the 2006 Census of Population and Dwellings people were asked how they travelled to work on census day. Here are the data.

The greatest number by far travelled by car, truck, van, or company bus. Out of 1 million people:

  • Over 367,000 did not go to work or worked from home.
  • There were 105,000 walkers and joggers.
  • Over 59,000 people travelled on public buses.
  • 38,000 rode a bike to work.
  • 19,000 rode a motorbike or power cycle.
  • 19,000 took a train. 
  • 14,000 travelled to work in some other way - like a skateboard.
  1. Draw up a dot plot. Have each dot will represent 5,000 people. The car, truck, van and company bus travellers will run off your paper so draw an arrow to represent them.
  2. Quickly survey the students in your class to find out how they got to school today. Use the same options as the census did (cars, bus etc) and draw a dot plot for your class. Each dot should represent one person.
  3. Compare the class pattern with your first dot plot.
    What are the similarities?
    What are the differences?

Session 2

  1. Have students access the Quickstats about a Place site to find data from the most recent census. Allow time for the students to become familiar with the site.
  2. Have them locate and compare the transport statistics (household access to motor vehicles) for New Zealand with the transport statistics for your own region. Have them also compare your regional motor vehicle statistics, with that of a region in the other island (North/South). Notice the number of families that have no car, and those that have 3+ cars. Discuss similarities, differences and possible implications for roading/travel in the region.

Session 3

  1. In 2016 The New Zealand Transport Agency published this statement:

           “Cycling is now the fastest growing mode of transport in several cities and towns across New Zealand.”

    Have students access this site. Locate and list interesting facts about urban cycleway programmes in the region closest to your school:
  2. Have students consider again the motor vehicle ownership statistics from Activity 2:2, and the cycling trends and cycleway initiatives. Have students predict and draw a transport graph for a class of students in your school in 20 years time, and another for households in your region in 20 years time.
  3. Have students share, compare and explain the rationale for their data display.

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