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Statistics in Schools

Teaching Ideas

Skills: Students collect, analyze and compare data, thus addressing skills in math, social studies, history, and geography.


What's the Connection Between the Census Bureau and the National Weather Service?

Did you know that when disaster looms, local, state and national agencies use Census Bureau data to determine how many citizens will be affected and to plan for their safety and security? Information about where people live and work is vital to the decisions of community and emergency preparedness leaders who must advise and direct citizens. Census Bureau information is critical when hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, fires and other disasters strike.

This fall several hurricanes menaced the United States. Each time the National Hurricane Center has issued watches and warnings, the Census Bureau's Hurricane Data and Emergency Preparedness Web page has released media advisories, issuing information about the number of people and businesses that will be directly affected, and other data such as housing values and median household income for the affected area.You can access this information at <> This site includes maps of the affected areas. Have students select a past weather emergency from the list on this page, "Census Data and Emergency Preparedness."

Elementary students should click on the name of a selected past emergency and read the summary information to determine the date of the event. Then students should click on "News Releases" and locate the press release for that date and event. Have students answer the following: When did this happen? Where was the projected path of the storm? Locate the area affected on a US map. How many people and counties were affected? If you were a reporter, what other important information would you include in your news broadcast?

Middle and high school students should consult data highlights and summary maps provided as data tools for "Iowa Floods", "California Wildfires", and "Hurricanes Gustav, Katrina, Rita and Wilma" in order to investigate the economic impact of these weather emergencies.


Historical Census Data

Effective educators always look for new ways to combine high- interest materials, real-life applications and curricular standards. Teachers who consult the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site can locate a valuable repository of materials for classroom use. The section on historical data is particularly useful for social studies, history, and math teachers.

Site surfers might find the links and contents initially challenging; however, once unlocked, the site provides an infinite array of appealing possibilities.

Navigation Directions: Go to <>; click on "People and Households"; click on "Sources of Information"; click on "Historical Census Data"; click on #1, "Population, Housing Units, Area Measurements, and Density."

The information provided on this link offers excellent opportunities for elementary students to work with large numbers, applying addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills.

  • Direct students to compute historic changes during selected decades in population, housing units, area measurements and density of the U.S.
  • Have students develop different kinds of graphs showing the changes in data indicated on this link.
  • Provide students with partially complete tables showing historic changes in population, housing units, area measurement and density and instruct them to fill in the empty cells.

(a) U.S. Settlement Patterns

The table of information is a complement to history lessons about U.S. settlement. Have students:

  • Round the population figures to the nearest million and create line graphs to show the change in U.S. population over time.
  • Divide the population by the land area to calculate population density for selected years.

Use the total population and total housing units columns to calculate the number of persons per household from 1940 to the present.

(b) Connecting Historical Information to Today's News

Have students examine the historical county information for their state and county and compare it to the latest County Population Estimates. Navigation directions: Go to <>; click on "People and Households"; click on "Sources of Information"; click on "Historical Census Data"; click on #26, "Population Census Counts." Click on your state to get individual county information.


A Child's Day

How does a day in the life of one of your students compare to other students? Help your students find out by reading the press release <> and participating in the following activity:

Have students create a data set that relates the information to their own lives and experiences by developing a questionnaire and by collecting and analyzing the information obtained from classmates.

Consider having students write questions related to activities in their day and tabulate the answers from fellow students. Then have students use a written explanation and graphs and charts to report about such topics as: the number of times students changed schools during their school years; parental restrictions on television watching; and meals shared with parents. Sample questions could include inquiries such as, "Do you eat breakfast/dinner with your parents? Do you eat at a table or in front of a television set?"


Population Pyramids

What is the connection between the age and sex structure of a population? Why does this matter? The age-sex structure determines the potential for growth of specific age groups and the total population. Therefore an understanding of a population age structure is critical for informed decision-making.

The age-sex structure can be studied through population pyramids. The shape of the pyramid indicates the potential for future growth and can also provide hints about past trends. A top-heavy pyramid suggests negative population growth that might be because of any number of factors, including high death rates, low birthrates, and increased emigration. A bottom-heavy pyramid suggests high birthrates, falling or stable death rates, and the potential for rapid population growth.

Give your students a population pyramid for a state, region, or county (web sites listed below.) Ask students to examine the population pyramid, describe the age-sex distribution of the population, and identify the services necessary to serve this population over the next 10 to 15 years.

Visit the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site to find out if the population pyramid of your state or the area you are studying resembles a "pyramid," "a pillar" (column), or something in between.

State Population Pyramids -- Pyramids using Census 2000 data and projections for 2010.
<> <> using this URL results in the following page: "Sorry, the page you requested has either been moved...." Either locate the correct URL or omit this reference.

National Population Pyramids -- Pyramids using population projections for 1990, 2000, 2025, 2050, and 2100.

International Population Pyramids -- <>

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Office of External Engagement (OEE) | 1-301-763-6590 | Last Revised: May 03, 2012