"What is life like for Canadian students today?"
"What is life like for us?" lies at the heart of statistics.
Since the beginning of time, people have kept records in the form
of pictures, words and numbers in order to tell others how they
live and what is important to them. Answering
this question raises four fundamental issues:
- What counts? That is, what is important enough
to collect data about?
- How do we count? That is, how do we collect
and interpret information about people's lives?
- Who counts? That is, what perspectives are in play when any individual,
a group, or a government decides to collect data?
- Why count or record data at all? That is, what
is the human impulse that leads us to want to tell others what
our lives are like, to explore the lives of others, and to connect
the way things were with the way things are?
project gives your students the chance to explore the heart root
of statistics in three ways:
- Using Statistic
Canada's historical data, they will trace the roots of the census
in Canada. By looking at a time that is very different from their
own, they will explore what the results of the 1665 Census tell
us about life in New France
. They will come to understand
the political and economic importance of the systematic collection
of census data.
- Using Using
Statistic Canada's E-Stat
site and the Canada Yearbook 2001, your students will explore
1996 census data that paints a picture of how Canadians over the
age of 15 live today.
their own data, they will create their own picture of what life
is like for them and compare this with the national data
students will also develop an awareness of the stories that statistics
canand cannottell by exploring the Winter Count of Plains
aboriginal people. Asking the same question, "What
is life like for us?" students will examine, create and
interpret data of a very different kind.
There are a number
of ways to use this study.
You can adapt it to the curriculum areas of most interest
to you, and to the particular age of your students.
Students from Grade 3 to Grade 12 could explore these materials
and ideas with appropriate guidance and adaptations. You can use this project
- as part of
a study of Canadian history and culture.
and life in early Canada
peoples of Canada
- As part of
a novel study. Lois
Lowry’s Gathering Blue (Houghton Mifflin, 2000) raises
many of the fundamental questions on which this whole project
is based. Suggested
reading level is ages 9 – 12.
- As part of
a statistics unit, where you will have students work with real
- As part of
an investigation of the difference between qualitative and quantitative
If you wish to
keep the project small, you can collect data from only your class,
or one or two others in the school. If you set up a telecollaborative project
involving 2 or more schools, you could collect data from many parts
of Canada. You would
need to decide early on in your planning how big you want this project
to become. Managing a telecollaborative project takes
time and attention—but it is well worth the effort
|In early Canada, a wintercount was
a way for members of a tribe to decide what was most important to
them each year. They would make a drawing to represent the event
they decided to record. We will borrow the
idea of a wintercount as one way to answer the question, "What
is school like?" Each month, your class must decide what is
the most important event of the month to record, and you will also
choose a picture to represent that event.
When Jean Talon did the first count of Europeans
in the winter of 1665, he was interested in quite different things
than the kinds of events that might have been painted on a wintercount
skin. Look at the kinds of things he decided to count. These became
the categories for Canada's first census.
Jean Talon began a process that governments still
follow today. When we want to find out what life is like in a
community, we can count things that we think are important. It's
quite a different way of telling a story, and it's another way
of painting a picture for others.
has been collecting information about the lives of Canadians for
more than 300 years. In this section, students learn
to think like statisticians as explore the question, "What
is life like for us today?" They conduct a
census of students of their age. That means devising survey questionnaires,
administering them, and tallying and interpreting the results.
As they paint the picture of life fora student
of their age, they compare that picture with the national portrait
of life in Canada available through Canada 2001 and the Statistics