Healthy Hands


The purpose of this unit of five lessons is conduct a statistical investigation to answer a health question such as, "Does washing my hands keep me from getting sick?"

Achievement Objectives
S1-1: Conduct investigations using the statistical enquiry cycle: posing and answering questions; gathering, sorting and counting, and displaying category data; discussing the results.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Identify a health issue for investigation.
  • Make a pictograph and identify its key features.
  • Pose an investigation question with support from the teacher.
  • Participate in developing a plan to collect data.
  • Gather, sort, count and display category data.
  • Discuss results of an investigation.
  • Draw a picture/diagram to show the investigation process.
  • Make ‘I wonder’ statements and pose questions.
Description of Mathematics

At level one, students are learning to collect, sort and count data. They are learning to apply their number knowledge and strategies, and to use pictographs to display category data. As students create and interpret pictograph data, and have become familiar with the features of this data display, they are well placed to make the transition to understanding and using a bar graph to represent the information that they have collected. As they make the transition to the bar graph’s more abstract representation of data, students should have the opportunity to clearly identify and discuss the similarities and differences between the two display types.

There are conventions in creating data displays. Labeling of the axes, giving an appropriate title, and using uniform units of scale are key conventions that should be modeled and discussed. Having students talk about their own data displays and having them interpret the data displays of others, helps students to recognise these conventions, and helps them to appreciate their importance to the audience, for understanding the information presented.

The language of statistics is important. Developing this involves using the language of comparison that highlights the relationships that exist within and between the data. ‘More than, greater than, less than, fewer than,’ and ‘the same as’ (equality), are key words and phrases that will dominate communication of the data results. Students need to be able to recognise and move between synonyms, recognising that they are expressing the same idea; for example ‘less than’ and ‘fewer than’.

Participation in the investigation cycle reinforces the understanding that it is possible to find out important and helpful information by gathering and analyzing data. Having children participate in developing a question to investigate is important, as is deciding how the information to answer the question will be collected (data collection). Both of these processes take careful scaffolding so that students understand exactly why and how the investigation will be undertaken.

At this level it is important for students to begin to understand that the results from their investigations may only apply to their situation, may not be true for everyone and therefore cannot be generalised. If the sample is very small (students in one class), or the investigation has been undertaken for a very short period of time, for example, these may be limiting factors that may affect the results.

Helping students to understand the limitations of their investigation results, leads, with support, to their making important ‘I wonder’ statements, and posing further questions. To begin at this level to take an investigation to the point of critiquing results and questioning, is to develop early, the very important disposition associated with statistical literacy.

Cross-curricular links (Health and Physical Education)

Personal Health and Physical Development, level 1

  • A0 1: Describe feelings and ask questions about their health, growth, development and personal needs and wants.
  • A0 3: Describe and use safe practices in a range of contexts and identify people who can help.
Required Resource Materials
  • Paper
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Chart paper
  • Small squares of paper
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Water, soap, towels
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Glue stick
  • Germs Are Not for Sharing, by Elizabeth Verdick
  • Germs Make Me Sick, by Melvin Berger

Learning activities
Whilst this unit is presented as sequence of five sessions, more sessions than this may be required. It is also expected that any session may extend beyond one teaching period.

Session 1

This session is about acknowledging that a number of students have been absent, introducing a pictograph to keep track of attendance/absences, recognising that there is a health issue in the class, and suggesting what might be causing it.
It is helpful if this investigation is undertaken at a time when there has been some history of absences within the class.


  • Identify a health issue for investigation.
  • Make a pictograph and identify its key features.

Activity 1

Begin by noticing that there are some absences from the class/there have been some recent absences from the class.
Agree that for a period of time (for example, the next two weeks) the class will keep track of the number of students who are absent each day.
Ask the students for suggestions about how this can be shown so that everyone can see and keep track. Accept all suggestions and discuss these.
Lead discussion to the idea that the class could create a (picto)graph.

Activity 2

  1. Make available small squares of paper. Have each student draw a child on one piece of paper. (It should be a generic picture rather than of themselves).
    Collect all pictures in a container.
  2. Together, make a pictograph, with the student input, on a large piece of paper. Highlight key features.
    Discuss what the label of the x axis should be.
    Select from the container the same number of pictures as there are absent students. Have a child glue these on the graph. Number the y axis together, highlighting that there is a number beside each picture. Talk about the number of students in the class and how far the numbering should go.
    Discuss what the graph should be called. For example:

  3. Have several students talk about the features of the graph and explain what it shows.

Activity 3

  1. Pose the question. “Why do you think that children in our class might be getting sick?”
    Discuss. Lead the discussion to germs.
  2. Read, Germs Make Me Sick, by Melvin Berger (or one of the other recommended books).

Activity 4

Conclude the session by asking the students for suggestions about what the class can do about helping people not to get sick and being absent from class.
Record the student’s ideas. For example, “we should carefully clean our hands after we have used the toilet and before we eat”, “we should not sneeze on people”, “we should put our hand over our mouth when we cough”.

Session 2

This session is about posing an investigative question and planning data collection.


  • Pose and investigation questions with support from the teacher.
  • Participate in developing a plan to collect data.

Activity 1

Begin this session by reading together the ideas recorded in Session 1, Activity 4.

Activity 2

  1. Ask: How can we find out if any of these (actions) really does stop people in our class getting sick?
  2. Have students talk with a partner and agree on ways of doing this. Share and list these.
  3. Guide discussion to a class agreement that they will investigate whether cleaning hands before eating means that the students get sick less often.
    A way of doing this is to have everyone wash/clean their hands before morning tea and lunch, and to see if the number of absences, due to sickness, gets less.
  4. Write on the class chart the question to be answered. For example:
    Does cleaning our hands before we eat help to stop us getting sick?

Activity 3

  1. Have students suggest how to check that everyone cleans their hands.
    Agree on a way to gather hand-washing data: For example:
    Show Attachment 1 and cut it into separate small pictures and place these in a coloured container. Show a white container.
    Explain that over the next week, each day, twice, before morning-tea and lunch, each student should place a picture in the white container after they have washed or sanitized their hands.
    Show two more (prepared) blank pictographs as in Session 1, one for morning-tea time and one for lunchtime. Read the titles and axes together.
    Explain that the helper for the day will glue the hands on each pictograph, when they have finished eating.
  2. Distribute a copy of Attachment 1 to each student.
    Have them cut these carefully into separate squares and place them in a coloured container.
    Highlight the fact that the picture of two hands ‘represents’ one person.

Activity 4

Have student explore the principles of good hand washing.
Have students make handprints to decorate a class hand-washing display, that includes their pictographs.
Make available paper and felt pens.

  1. Have students draw around both of their hands and write their names on their ‘clean hands’ print.

    Make available paper, paint, a brush each, painting shirts.
  2. Have students write their name on a second piece of paper, then make a painted print of each of their hands.

    Make available hand washing water, soap and towels. Explain that there is to be no paint at all left on the towel when everyone has washed and dried their hands.
  3. Have students wash their hands thoroughly.
  4. As a class, have students describe how to clean their hands well, whether they are washing off the paint that they can see, or the tiny germs that they cannot see.

Activity 5

Conclude this session by reviewing the data collection process.
Over the next weeks, each day, before morning-tea/lunch you will:

  • Use the hand sanitiser to clean your hands well.
  • Take one small hand picture from the blue container, and place it in the white container.
  • Eat your food.

The helper for the day will glue the hands on the pictograph when they have finished eating.

Session 3 (and following)

This session and the three following are about gathering and sorting data, and adding it, progressively over several sessions, to three pictographs.


  • Gather sort and count data.
  • Display category data.

On each day:

  1. Gather absentee data and add these to the appropriate graph.
  2. Ensure that hand washing data have been added to each of the pictographs.

At the most suitable time in the day, have students talk in pairs about each of the data displays, then have individual students read each aloud to the class. Remind students that the picture of two hands ‘represents’ one person.
Focus on developing the key language of ‘more than, greater than, less than, fewer than, and the same as’ (equality), and on having students become comfortable and familiar with the pictograph data display and its features.

Session 4 (The fifth day of data gathering.)

This session is about having the students understand how the data from the pictographs (made in the first week) can also be represented on a bar graph.


  • Understand how the data from the pictograph can be represented on a bar graph.
  • Recognise the similarities and differences between the both displays.

Activity 1

Display a glue stick. Explain that the daily helpers have been using the glue stick a lot.
Ask if students know of another way they could show the results of their investigation without having to glue on lots of pictures.
Record their ideas.

Activity 2

Agree (or explain) that in the next week, instead of placing a hand picture in a container to show they have washed their hands they will instead use a felt pen and make a mark. Introduce tally marks, and demonstrate what to do.

Represent several numbers using tally mark and have students give and explain the number presented.
Together, create a new set of instructions for gathering data, this time using tally marks.

Activity 3

  1. Ask, “If there are no hands to glue on how will we show the number of people who washed their hands each day?”
    Agree (or explain) that in the next week, instead of making a pictograph, the helper will use the number that the tally marks show, to fill in a column or bar of colour on the graph. Make the link between these data quite explicit.
  2. Demonstrate how data will be recorded on a bar graph.
    Show a (prepared) blank bar graph (grid).
    Together name each axis and give the graph a title.
    Together number the lines, not the spaces, and emphasise this strongly.
    On chart paper, together represent the number of pictures of hands from this session with tally marks.
    Demonstrate how to show this number on the bar graph.
    Emphasise that the bar goes up to the line with that number.
  3. Talk about what is the same (title, label on axes) as the pictograph and what is different. (the numbering on the y axis, there are no pictures, just a ‘bar’ of colour.) Explain that each person in the class will also make their own bar graph.

Activity 4

Make graph paper and pencils available.
Have students prepare their own empty bar graph to use the following week.
In the following data gathering sessions, make time each day to check the tally marks and complete entering the day’s data on the class graphs and have students complete their own copies of the graph.
Demonstrate and emphasise that there are spaces between the (coloured) bars.

Make time for individual students to read aloud the data on their graphs.

Session 5

This session is about discussing the results of the class investigation, recognising the limitations of the investigation and posing further questions.


  • Discuss results of the investigation.
  • Write about the results of the investigation.
  • Draw a picture/diagram to show the investigation process.
  • Make ‘I wonder’ statements and pose questions.

Activity 1

  1. Begin by reviewing the hand-washing graphs, highlighting the language of comparison. Ask:
    • What is the same about pictographs and the bar graph? (Comment of both the data they show and the display features.)
    • What is different about the pictographs (week one) and the bar graphs? (week two)
    • What do you notice about hand washing over time? (For example: ‘most people have remembered to wash their hands over all of the two weeks’.)
  2. Review the absentee graphs. Ask:
    • What do you notice about the number of people who have been absent? (For example: ‘the number of people who are sick has got less’)
  3. Display the investigation question.
    Does cleaning our hands before we eat help to stop us getting sick?
    Have students first discuss in pairs, their answers to the question with reference to the data, then have them share and explain their thinking with the class.
    (There may be no apparent relationship between the two data sets).
    Discuss results and together write an answer to the investigation question.
  4. Also ask/discuss:
    • What other things (factors) may have affected the results? (for example: the time for the investigation was not long enough, some people were absent for reasons other than sickness, sneezing and coughing spread germs too, so people still got sick.)
    • Does anyone have an “I wonder” comment they wish to make about our investigation? (For example: “I wonder if we did it for longer, if we’d see a pattern”)
    • Can anyone suggest another question that could be investigated? (For example: ‘Does eating healthy food help to stop us getting sick?’)
    Regardless of results, conclude by emphasising that cleaning hands before eating is always important.

Activity 2

Conclude by talking about the investigation process. Make a simple diagram on the class chart showing each part of the enquiry cycle. Review each step.
Have each student draw their own picture/diagram of the investigation process, or part of this, and write about what they have learned, including writing the answer to the investigation question.

Activity 3

Complete the class “Healthy Hands” display.


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