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50,000 Kiwi kids take part in CensusAtSchool

What are Kiwi kids’ favourite subjects? How much do their laden schoolbags weigh? And which super-powers, such as invisibility and telepathy, would they choose if they could?

An estimated 50,000 students aged between 10 and 18 (Year 5 to Year 13) are due to start answering these questions – and a host of others about their lives – as the online CensusAtSchool 2009 begins.

Their teachers will be administering the 15-minute census in class between next Tuesday, March 3, and the last day of term one, Thursday April 9. The 35-question survey, available in English and Māori, aims to raise students’ interest in mathematics and statistics as well as provide a fascinating sketch of what they are thinking, feeling and doing.

“It’s about making numbers practical, fun and relevant to young people,” says co-director Rachel Cunliffe, a statistics lecturer at the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics. “We are encouraging them to be data detectives and explore the uses of numbers.”

One question asks students to measure their popliteal length – that’s the measurement from the back of the knee, when seated, to the floor. Another invites them to click on a button to measure their reaction time. Students submitted four of the survey’s questions, with one of those asking about favourite online activities.

CensusAtSchool proved enormously popular with teachers and students in 2003, 2005 and 2007, says Rachel Cunliffe. “Students tell us over and over that they love the results. They love to know about other students.”

CensusAtSchool is a collaborative project involving teachers, the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics, Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Education. It is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people, and is carried out in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa.
“CensusAtSchool is about real-world learning in a way that is compelling and exciting for students,” says Mary Chamberlain, the Ministry of Education’s Group Manager, Curriculum Teaching and Learning. “It not only teaches them how to measure the world around them and why statistics are important, it offers interesting snapshots of their lives.”

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Notes to media:

– Further information and a list of schools taking part in CensusAtSchool New Zealand 2009 is available at http://www.censusatschool.org.nz/

– Rachel Cunliffe, CensusAtSchool co-director and spokesperson, is available on 373
7599 ext 89622. This number transfers to Rachel’s mobile phone if she is not in the office. Her email is rachel@stat.auckland.ac.nz

About CensusAtSchool co-director Rachel Cunliffe

Rachel Cunliffe, a statistics lecturer at the University of Auckland, also lectures and speaks about online communications and youth culture. Rachel and her husband Regan are behind the popular New Zealand TV-watchers’ website Throng. Rachel has been researching the use of instant messaging in educational settings.

A copyright-free portrait of Rachel Cunliffe for media use is available here.