Data sets available on the Internet are valuable resources for studying real data to address questions that interest students. Teachers and students can download data sets from the World Wide Web, collaborate in online data-collection projects, and search electronic libraries and data files. This example describes activities in which students can use census data available on the Web to examine questions about population. Working on such activities, students can also formulate their own questions and use the mathematics they are studying to address these questions. They can propose and justify conclusions that are based on data and design further studies on the basis of conclusions or predictions, as described in the Data Analysis and Probability Standard.
This example includes links to the Web sites of Statistics Canada, and the United States Census Bureau. To go to these sites click on the desired link highlighted in blue letters or on the corresponding region of the map. Close the window of the Census Bureau or Statistics Canada Web site to return to the Principles and Standards site.
Since addresses for pages on the Web may change over time, we will provide general strategies for finding data for this activity. Once in the Census Bureau Web site, you may want to scan the page to find specific information or statistics for the category "people." Data for this task is likely to be found under "historical census data." If browsing the pages related to the category "people" does not take you quickly to the data you are looking for, you may also try doing a search by entering "historical census data" as keywords.
Once in this site you may want to scan the page to find specific information for the category "Canadian statistics" and then "the people." If browsing the pages related to these categories does not take you quickly to the data you are looking for, you may also try doing a search by entering "population growth" as keywords.
Examine the United States Census Bureau or the Statistics Canada (perform a simple web search to find these sites) web site to identify the population of your home state or province. Examine the population data from the past fifty years. On the basis of the population changes reported over the past fifty years, would you predict that the population of your state or province will increase or decrease the next time a census is completed? By how much?
Teachers can use technology to enhance their students' learning opportunities by selecting or creating mathematical tasks that take advantage of what technology can do efficiently and well. Technology can provide access to real data on the World Wide Web that teachers can use to design tasks in which students address questions that interest them. Although the availability of real data on the Web opens up exciting learning opportunities, teachers should not assume that gaining access to the data is always straightforward. The role of the teacher is thus central to the success of this activity. Teachers need to select or design the tasks, decide when and how students will have access to the Web, what searching skills and strategies students will need, and how much guidance to give them. Students need to plan and make decisions about the data that should be retrieved and select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze the data. Teachers and students need to consider possible ways in which the data can be represented and which software might help them organize, represent, and interpret the data.
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