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Resource: Teaching Data Literacy With the U.S. Census


The Census in Schools program provides lesson plans that can help teachers to teach math, geography, civics and government, history, economics, and language arts. One of the goals of the program is to promote data literacy.

Hmmm, that's a skill I've had to acquire and use often as a journalist. It seems to me that a lot of jobs require the ability to understand data, charts, and maps. I browsed the Teaching Materials section of the Census in Schools Web site and found a "We Count" map showing the population in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The census provides three different versions of the map; each one is designed for a different cluster of grades.

I can picture teachers using the U.S. Census tools to help students apply what they are learning in math, geography, or other subjects. The materials are based on the 2000 U.S. Census. It won't be long before the bureau will have to revise them for a new census.


This looks like a great resource, thank you for sharing.

I certainly recognize the value of analyzing census data. But, I look forward to the day when some foundation supports the development of curriculum resources around sports statistics, or other kinds of data that would cater to students not otherwise interested in school.


Never underestimate the power of serious stuff to grab people. Years ago I used 1990 census data broken down by race, gender, and SES to illustrate integrating math with social studies, and found that it totally grabbed my rather math-averse students. Yes, it was with older students, not elementary age kids, but once they got into querying the data and interpreting their results, they were totally absorbed. What really impressed me about the experience was that the data were state-by-state, not very refined, and yet it still provided grist for some very good questions and discussions of results.

You can find lots of lessons around sports statistics out there, and I've used baseball stats to good effect also. But even rabid sports fans are interested in deeper social questions--they just have to be stimulated in the right way to bring it out.

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