Lesson 4: Take a Census

Grades 5–6

words to know

Strand: Managing Data

Skills and Objectives

  • bullet Understand mean, mode, and median
  • bullet Apply mathematical concepts to real-world
  • bullet Understand the purpose of the census

Before starting, print and copy the student worksheets and hang the wall map.

Materials: A Nonsensical Census Student Worksheet 4a, Why Do You Ask? Student Worksheet 4b , It's About Us Census Fact Sheet, United States Demographics wall map, index cards or slips of paper, census form

Time Required: Two 40-minute class periods

    Getting Started

  1. Tell students that you are going to be holding a special classroom census. Distribute A Nonsensical Census Student Worksheet 4a.
  2. Using the Student Worksheets

  3. Read the first half of the worksheet together and give students time to complete the questions.
  4. Divide students into four small groups. Give each student four index cards or slips of paper. Ask students to write the answer to the first question on the first index card or slip of paper. Repeat until all four index cards each have one answer. Ask one group member to collect the cards for his or her group. Then guide students as they:

    • Find the mean number of pets in each group. Add the numbers on the cards and divide by the number of cards.
    • Find the median age for losing a first tooth. Place the cards in order from youngest to oldest. Take away one card from each end until only one number is left. If two numbers are left, find the mean of the two.
    • Find the range of lightbulbs. Place the cards in order from least to greatest. Subtract the least number from the greatest number. This is the range in number of lightbulbs.
    • Find the favorite band mode. Arrange the band cards into stacks by band. The stack with the most cards is the mode. There can be more than one mode.
  5. Invite groups to compare their answers. Together find the class mean, median, range, and mode.
  6. Using the Wall Map

  7. Distribute the census form . Ask students to discuss why questions about dwelling, age, gender, and household size are asked on the census form.
  8. Bring this information to a local level and complete Why Do You Ask? Student Worksheet 4b. Separate into groups and provide computer access for students to answer the questions for your county or city.
  9. Wrap-up

  10. Discuss what students have learned about census questions. Ask: What is your reaction to the census questions?

Action Extension

Starting in spring 2010, students can access real-time results of the 2010 Census online at www.census.gov. Encourage students to track local participation rates and serve as "Census Cheerleaders" for the community. They might provide updates through morning announcements, text messaging, or a classroom blog; challenge them to use their creativity and track their successes!


Student Worksheet 4b: Answers will vary.

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