Exploring New Zealand’s data


Students use existing data and data displays to investigate areas of interest relating to gender, education, employment, and income, (or other topics of interest) and present their findings.

Achievement Objectives
S4-1: Plan and conduct investigations using the statistical enquiry cycle: determining appropriate variables and data collection methods; gathering, sorting, and displaying multivariate category, measurement, and time-series data to detect patterns,...
S4-2: Evaluate statements made by others about the findings of statistical investigations and probability activities.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Identify an area of interest to investigate.
  • Find data displays including graphs, tables, and non-traditional data representations, that can inform the investigation e.g. from websites and other sources.
  • Explore the information behind the data displays to make sense of the data and use it to explore an area of interest.
  • Interpret and use data displays.
  • Discuss features of a data display.
  • Communicate findings.
Description of Mathematics

This is an open unit allowing students to investigate topics that are of particular interest to them.

Key New Zealand websites that provide data to the public are introduced and students are guided to research an area of interest relating to gender, education, employment, and income. Ideally this could be an integrated topic connected to a social studies, science, or English research topic or unit theme.

StatsNZ | Tatauranga Aotearoa (https://www.stats.govt.nz/)

Stats NZ | Tatauranga Aotearoa collects information from people and organisations and uses the information to publish insights and data about New Zealand.

Good starting places for ideas include:

Figure.NZ (https://figure.nz/)

On Figure.NZ you can find and use figures (graphs) about our country, for free.

Use the search tool or the “or explore” button for specific topics.  Topics include education, employment, health, people, travel.

The search tool can be used by typing in key words e.g. gender and employment

Selected graphs can be explored. Click on a graph to explore further – information about the data and related content is given. Students can select displays that relate to their area of interest.

Opportunities for Adaptation and Differentiation

The learning opportunities in this unit can be differentiated by providing or removing support to students and by varying the task requirements. Ways to support students include:

  • giving suggested weblinks to explore for some topics
  • providing prompting questions to help students to explore the weblinks productively
  • providing prompts for writing descriptive statements
  • teacher support at all stages of the investigation.

The context for this unit can be adapted to suit the interests and experiences of your students. For example:

  • the statistical enquiry process can be applied to many topics and selecting ones that are of interest to your students should always be a priority
  • this activity focuses on gender, education, employment and income using StatsNZ | Tatauranga Aotearoa and Figure.NZ websites as the main sources of data; other areas can also be explored.
Required Resource Materials

Getting started

In preparation for this unit of work teachers should do some initial exploration of the websites and other sources so they can start their students on the topic of choice.

  1. Introduce the topic to be explored in this unit of work.
    For example: We are going to explore education and employment in New Zealand.
  2. Ask the students to think about what statistics they might be able to find online about education and employment – ascertaining prior knowledge. Capture ideas on the board.  If they do not have many ideas this is ok, we will add to the ideas after an initial exploration.
  3. Direct the students to explore a few web links with directed questions to answer about what they see (ideally the teacher sets this up, the following are to give a sense of the sorts of questions that could be asked).
    For example: From Stats NZ | Tatauranga Aotearoa
    • Where we live versus where we work (2018 Census Data)
      Questions could include:
      • Whose data was included in the maps on this web page?
      • Which maps are included? Is our town/city included?
      • What conclusions are given in the introduction?
      • Does what you see in the maps the same as what the conclusion was in the introduction?
    • New Zealand as a village of 100 people: Education and Employment (2018 Census Data)
      Questions could include:
      • What topics are covered in the infographic?
      • What occupation has the biggest number of people involved in it?
      • How do the proportions of women and men’s median incomes change as the incomes get greater?
      • The results presented in the infographic are based on what data?
      • Can you think of two examples of why people might be classified as not in labour force?
    From Figure.NZ
    • Employment rate in New Zealand by highest qualification
      Questions could include:
      • What type of graph is this?
      • When is the data from?
      • What do the numbers on the x axis represent?
      • What is the exact percentage for Level 1-3 certificate? (hover on the bars to get the value)
      • How is the employment rate worked out?
  1. During the exploration get students to start to think about what they might like to explore more deeply.
  2. Bring the class back together and add to the initial brainstorm about the statistics they think they will be able to find online about education and employment.


Over the next 2-3 sessions students will be collating together data displays to tell a story related to the area of interest they decided to explore.

They will present their findings in a format of their choice, e.g. a slide presentation, a poster, a word or google doc. Provide them with the main sections to include (bolded below, see Copymaster 1).

  1. Refer to the brainstorming from the previous session.  Have students in pairs choose an area of interest to explore further using New Zealand statistics.
  2. Get the students to make 2-3 statements regarding what they think they might find about their chosen topic.  What are the pre-conceptions they have?
  3. Allow time in the first session to explore both the Stats NZ |Tatauranga Aotearoa website and Figure.NZ website with the aim to identify 3-5 different data displays to support their story about their area of interest.
  4. Students to copy the data displays into their presentation of their findings, including proper referencing of where the display came from – Figure.NZ has clear guidelines on this.
  5. A description of what the data shows should be given under each data display, ensuring statements include the variable, the group (or years for time series) the data is about, any values or units.
  6. A concluding discussion on how the displays tell a story about the area of interest, including referencing back to their initial thoughts on what they might find.


In this last session students share their findings with the rest of the class. Each pair of students should have one other pair that they will critique and provide feedback on using given guidelines.  

Guidelines could include (see Copymaster 2 – evaluation form):

  • Did the choice of data displays reflect the area of interest? (always; often; sometimes; rarely; never)
  • Were the descriptions of the data displays easy to understand? (always; often; sometimes; rarely; never)
  • Were the descriptions of the data displays factually correct? (always; often; sometimes; rarely; never)
  • How well did the data displays and descriptions support the story about the area of interest? (quite a bit; somewhat; a little; not at all)
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Level Four