Delving into datasets

17th September 2004 at 01:00
Mary Pardoe logs on to a website that takes the burden out of compiling interesting statistics at key stage 3

Hunting for sets of data that young people enjoy investigating can be time-consuming. Claire Turner, on secondment from teaching maths, may have lifted that burden. On a new website called stats4schools she has brought together some fascinating datasets and created plans for lessons in which pupils are encouraged to handle the data purposefully. The site is from the Office for National Statistics and has been created to give pupils opportunities to use large datasets in preparation for GCSE coursework.

The 15 lesson ideas are appropriate for key stage 3. Each is presented in a few downloadable files which include a detailed plan for a single lesson and relevant datasets as well as stimuli such as photos, posters, reading material and links to other websites. The five large datasets provide opportunities for pupils to test their hypotheses on the broad themes of shopping, smoking, reading, food consumption and careers. A list of links suggests other websites that may help them manipulate the data and draw their own conclusions.

The lessons are genuinely cross-curricular and can all be used in maths.

Each contains a starter, a main activity and a plenary session. You can follow a lesson as presented or select components from it. It would be easy to create a series of lessons from the lesson plan; the notes about extension activities, homework and assessment are helpful, as are the clearly stated expected outcomes. In most of the lesson ideas, worthwhile investigation of the data would naturally extend over several lessons.

This free ICT-based material could be used flexibly throughout KS3, although the topics, the sizes of the datasets, and the stated links to the KS3 strategy might suggest particular year groups. For example, the activities about tourism in London are linked to Year 7 geography objectives; work on sexual health might be appropriate in Year 9, and the large set of data about food might be best left until Year 8.

However, the questions that pupils ask and then try to answer will depend entirely on the class and the teacher. There is certainly plenty of scope for engrossing explorations using such interesting data.

Mary Pardoe is a former head of department and maths curriculum adviser at

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