Time Use Survey


This unit gives survey experience by providing students with the opportunity to design, collect and analyse data on the use of their time.

Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Plan an investigation.
  • Choose and construct appropriate data displays.
  • Discuss features of data displays using mean, median and mode and looking at the range.
  • Where appropriate state implications from their investigation.
  • Look at possible further investigation or improvements to their investigation.
Description of Mathematics

Surveys are increasingly important in modern life. Surveys such as the national census are important for government planning. Surveys of teenage smoking tell organisations such as ASH how successful their programmes are. Surveys of the performance of political parties help the government to see how their policies are working and enable predictions of who might form the next government. Clearly it is important to be able to design, collect and analyse these surveys to get information which is as accurate as possible. This unit concentrates on the second of these three facets of surveys to produce information about the students’ use of time.

Required Resource Materials

Prior to this Unit

It would be helpful if students were already familiar with some statistical ideas:

  • Mean
  • Mode
  • Median
  • Data displays
  • Bar graphs
  • Pie graphs
  • Stem and leaf plots
  • Histograms

In 2009/2010, Statistics New Zealand carried out a time use survey. Before starting this unit we suggest that you explore the results on the Statistics New Zealand website.

Session 1

In this session we set the scene for a time use survey.

  1. Introduce the survey to the students. We are going to track what we do for 24 hours (not the 48 hours of the actual survey). We will start from the end of school today and go through to the end of school tomorrow.
  2. Discuss with the class
    What data might it be useful/interesting to collect?
    Who will give us the information for the survey?
    How will we collect the data?
    How might we analyse it?
    How will you handle any errors?
  3. In the 24 hours of the survey, let us suppose that we are going to record information regarding what the students were doing and where they were or how they were travelling.
  4. Suppose that you decide to split the time into quarter of an hour blocks. Use the copymaster to collect the data on. Below is part of that table to explain to students how it might be completed.
    Time What were you doing? Where were you or how were you travelling?
    5:00am sleeping At home
    7:30am shower  
    7:45am breakfast  
    8:15am Travel to school Walking to school
    8:30am Socialising with At school
    8:45am friends  
    9:00am Maths  
    10:00am Writing  
    10:45am Interval  
  5. Get the students to discuss:
    What sort of information might they be able to get from the completed class time use surveys?
    Who might find this information useful?
    How might we categorise the data?
    Why do we split the information up into 15 minute intervals?
  6. Let the class divide into small groups and do a sample time use survey of the last 24 hours with time divided into 30 minute sections. This will give them a chance to practice filling in the questionnaire and it will help you to emphasise what you are trying to gain from the survey. (You might warn them the day before that this might happen so that they pay particular attention to what they are doing.)
    1. Answer any questions that the class has.
    2. Discuss the results and how these might answer the questions in 5. above.
    3. Give each student a copy of the full 24 hour survey to take home.

Session 2

In this session we are going to prepare for working with the data.

  1. Check on the students’ completion of the 24 hour time use survey to date.
  2. Ask them to look at the information they have so far and make some statements about how they use their time.
  3. As a class decide what information from the time use survey you will use and prepare a table(s) for collating the data.
    For example: If you want to know how much time is spent on three main categories sleeping/at school/other activities, then you will need a summary sheet to get the students to total the amount of time spent on each activity. If they decide they want to know how much time is spent watching TV, then the summary sheet will need to ask them for this data as well.
    It might be that they want to further classify the other activities.
  4. Discuss how they will put the data together into the different categories.
    For example, do they want to count the different intervals and before-school time as ‘at school’ or as other activities?
    Do they want to count only the time spent in class as ‘at school’ time?
    Could we look at the data for the girls and the boys separately as well as the combined class data?
  5. What sort of graphs can we use to display this data?
    • Strip and pie graphs can be used to show the time spent on each type of activity over the 24 hours.
    • A stem and leaf graph or a histogram can be used to show all the class data for a particular activity, for example, how long do we sleep?
    • A back to back stem and leaf graph can be used to compare two different groups, for example males and females.
  6. What sort of statistical measures can we use to summarise the data we collect?
    Mean or median would be the best choice for measure of centre.
    In what instances would the median be a better choice than the mean?
  7. How would this data be different if the survey had been taken at another time of the week?

Session 3

In this session we are going to work with our own data.

  1. Get students to complete the summary tables developed in the previous lesson for their own data. (They will be presenting the whole class data in the next session.)
  2. Graph the data using the chosen displays.
  3. Let each student write a story describing their 24 hours. Use graphs to illustrate this story.
  4. Collate the class results into a table for use in the next session if there is time at the end of the session.

Session 4

In this session we are going to look at the overall class data.

  1. Graph the class data for the individual categories. Have a look at the distribution of the data.
  2. Get the students to work out an average for the class data.
  3. Graph the class average data as they did for their own data. (What if the total doesn’t add to 24 hours!)
  4. Write a story describing the 24 hours for the average student, using graphs to illustrate the story.
  5. Discuss how the class average data differs from their personal data and how it is similar.

Session 5

In this session we are going to look at groups within the class data.

  1. Graph the girls’ data for the individual categories as you did for the class data.
    Work out an average for the girls’ data.
  2. Graph the boys’ data for the individual categories as you did for the class data.
    Work out an average for the boys’ data.
  3. Graph the average girls’ and average boys’ data.
  4. Make comparisons between the girls’ data and the boys’ data, and between these and the class data.
    Examples might be "Girls watch more TV than boys"; or "Boys sleep more than girls".
  5. Make comparisons between their own individual data and the class gender data for their own gender.
    Examples might be "I watch less TV than most boys"; or "Most girls spend more time on ‘other activities’ than I do".
  6. Discuss
    Where there any outliers in the data? How did you handle them?
    What conclusions did you come to?
    Who do you think would be interested in your data?
    How would you change the survey if you did it again?
    How do you think that the results might change if the survey was taken in a different class? Or at a different time of the week/month/year? Or with adults rather than students?
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Level Five