Who uses statistics?


By answering questions which require them to engage with census data from their own region, students learn about the kind of data that are collected and made available, and who might use these to inform decisions they make about events, initiatives or business.

Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Make statements about a data collected and displayed by others
  • Interpret data and identify which person or group of people may use these to inform decisions
  • Give reasons to support their statements
Description of Mathematics

A census is a comprehensive statististical investigation of a population. It is a is carefully designed to elicit from members of a population precise information about a broad range of aspects of their lives.

A country needs reliable, up-to-date, accurate and detailed data to inform developments and improvements to the infrastructure, services, and health and education of its citizens.

By engaging with census data, students learn to read and make sense of the numeric data in tables, recognise and compare totals, identify range, and intrepret central tendancy information.

The Statistics New Zealand’s website has a wealth of information that is used by government, businesses, and individuals to inform make decisions they make.

It is important to provide students with opportunities explore data from their own region, and to consider and learn which individuals, businesses and organizations can use these data to inform their future actions.


Quickstats about a place (http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-about-a-place.aspx ) includes data on:

  • Population and dwellings
  • Age and sex
  • Cultural diversity
  • Relationship status
  • Qualifications
  • Work
  • Income
  • Families
  • Households
  • Phone, fax, internet
  • Transport
  • Housing
  • Business
Required Resource Materials
  1. Explain that a census was held in the Babylonian Empire nearly 6,000 years ago and people have been counting each other ever since. A census is a very useful tool to measure its population. The first New Zealand census was in 1851 and there has been one at most five year intervals since1881.
  2. Make copymaster 1 available. Have students work in pairs to answer:
    • Which census in the 1930s was abandoned? It was at the time of the Great Depression and the Government didn’t have much money;
    • Which census in the 1940s was not held because of World War 2?
  3. Have student pairs explore http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-about-a-place.aspx and collate a list of the kinds of statistics that are available for their region (see list above). Guide them to also explore the right hand links to definitions and related tables.
  4. Have them choose 5 of the headings and for each, write a summary statement of important and interesting data for their region.
  5. A census gives very real data that can be used in all sorts of ways. Have student pairs choose at least three of the following groups or organizations, and locate data that may inform the services they provide in the region. Have them consider which data from the last census each of the three groups might find useful, and explain why and how it might help them plan ahead.
    • Builders
    • Retirement village or rest home providers
    • Education providers (primary schools, high schools, polytechnics and universities)
    • Work and Income
    • Early childhood and childcare providers
    • Telecommunication providers
    • Traffic planners
    • Live Entertainent planners
    • City or Councils (responsible for rubbish collection, library services, planning public buildings and facilaities).
    • Sport providers
  6. Student answers will vary. However examples may be like this:
    • The building industry likes to keep an eye on where dwellings are being built so they can work out future trends. By looking at population figures, they might find that a large number of houses need to be built in Auckland, or that more builders need to be trained.
    • Many people work between 40 and 49 hours per week. Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) likes to know these figures because they set up activities that encourage people to keep fit and healthy in their spare time.
  7. Have students present to each other in small groups, their data and summaries for the three identifed sector groups.

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