Statistics Ideas

Given that statistics for primary pupils involves collecting data and then analysing and interpreting that data, this area of the maths curriculum has the potential to be very relevant and motivating for pupils since they can pose questions which they then try to answer, or make statements which they then try to prove.


Young pupils are required to be able to create and interpret pictograms, tally charts, block diagrams and simple tables so it is worth thinking about how these skills can be applied to what is happening in the classroom. If rewards are being used, can this be represented in a variety of ways?


Various initiatives are often introduced regarding healthy lifestyles, such as those encouraging pupils to walk to school if possible.

This data can be collected, represented in various ways and then interpreted by pupils. Even when inputting data into a piece of software during a national initiative, these usually have a range of graphs to view so pupils can see how their school is doing compared to other schools around the country. There is then also scope for discussing the differences in results such as why a countryside school, or one in a remote area, may have less pupils walking to school than a school in an urban area.

Other areas of focus could be measuring how much water pupils are drinking throughout the day and which classes are achieving the required amount, or how much time is being spent on screens during the week - this may surprise pupils themselves... 

Make the most of pupils' curiosity by asking questions when starting any humanities topic or even when starting a new book and pick out some which could be investigated by pupils. 



Given the importance of pupils being able to interpret charts and graphs, by creating their own they will develop a better understanding which can be used when analysing information that is presented to them.


Scale creation can cause problems when pupils are creating their own charts and graphs. Lots of modelling will therefore be needed for those pupils who do not appreciate the range needed or the necessity for equal intervals. The vertical scale is sometimes not connected to the idea of a number line by pupils if they have not seen many vertical number lines and this link has not been made early on. 

Provide opportunities for pupils to talk about what is happening in graphs of continuous data and also to create their own. Familiar situations are a good place to start when drawing their own, such as creating a story graph of what is happening to the noise level in the playground as the day progresses. Allow them to sketch these graphs before discussing how the axes should be labelled and which ones should represent time and noise level. It would not be surprising if some pupils used the vertical axis for time, which then provides a rich discussion point regarding how using different axes affects the result. Creating story graphs for others to work out what is being represented can be an activity for pairs in the classroom, or one to be completed at home.  


Even when interpreting more detailed graphs, it is worth getting pupils to summarise the story of what is happening using the labels on the axes, so is the slope increasing or decreasing and is it a slow, steady rise or a sudden jump; what does this mean? Also, when the line is horizontal, what is happening? Pupils sometimes interpret this as nothing happening rather than something remaining the same for a period of time.   


Collect examples of misleading or unclear graphs and charts that are sometimes found in the media (or create your own) so that pupils appreciate the need to be careful when interpreting data that has been presented to back up certain arguments or statements.

It is worth presenting pupils with graphs and charts, which you have created, that contain errors and ask pupils to find all the errors such as lack of labelling, unequal intervals on the axes, a missing scale or a misleading scale where it doesn't start at zero so differences appear larger than they are. 


Working with conversion graphs provides a link with measures but it can cause problems if pupils find it difficult to locate the point appropriate to both scales; drawing a vertical and horizontal line from the relevant axes can help with this. 



Timetables can be difficult to read for many pupils. It is worth using real timetables for the school locality in Upper KS2 since the ability to read a timetable will be essential for many students when they start using public transport on transfer to secondary school at age 11.

Ensure that pupils have had lots of exposure to reading tables in general and using easy timetables, as well as creating their own, before introducing real timetables, since there is a usually a lot of information to absorb. Even young pupils can get used to tables for various activities where laminated name cards can be used to show where pupils should be at a particular time. Make sure to link these with tables that are introduced in maths so that pupils understand that they are using the same skill. 

Some pupils find it difficult when reading tables to understand that one square relates to both a row and a column. Play games where pupils sit in grids or they have to find an image on a screen or within a set of cards, to show the need for using both rows and columns.  

Pupils will be more motivated to use timetables if they are planning a school trip or creating a timetable for a day trip or an event in school. Timetables that they create could be then shared and compared so that pupils could decide between them, explaining why they made their choices.