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Mathematics and the Census

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The United States Census provides math teachers and students with many opportunities for investigating mathematics in a real world context. We have received many requests at the Math Forum for these types of teaching ideas and resources.

What resources have you been using with your students to study and explain the mathematics involved in the census process?

We are compiling this page of resources and will continue to update it as more resources are suggested.

Send suggestions to: Suzanne Alejandre


[Lesson Plans]  [Other Resources]  [Dr. Math]  [PoWs]  [Books]

Lesson Plans

  • Count on the Census for Math Lessons! - Education World
    Collecting and analyzing data is a key math standard seen throughout grade levels, and the census is a way to teach not only math concepts but geography as well.

  • Your Gateway to Census 2000 - U.S. Census Bureau

  • Census 2000 - U.S. in Schools
    Activities, worksheets, and teaching suggestions

  • Math Connection: Population Shifts - Holt, Rinehart and Winston
    An Internet Connect activity that uses census data. View data from the census and reinforce concepts regarding the rounding of numbers.

  • Accessing and Investigating Population Data - NCTM Illuminations (Grades 3-5)
    Students examine the United States Census Bureau Web site to investigate population projections from 1990-2100. Using the five provided pyramids, students analyze the data to determine how populaon is distributed over time and explain what factors might contribute to these trends.

  • Pop Clock - Susan Boone
    Students will review the Census Bureau's Homepage on the Internet and gather data regarding trends in population. They will study this data and make predictions on future populations and compare their results with the information available on the Internet.

  • Population Growth - Mercedes McKay
    This series of activities explores the mathematical and environmental aspects of population growth. How fast is the population growing? Has it always grown at this rate? Are the populations of different countries growing differently? How can we predict the population in the future? How will a growing population impact the environment?



Other Resources

  • The 2000 Census: Sampling or a Straight Count? - David Almasi
    Background information on how a census is conducted and the difference between taking a sampling and doing a straight count.

  • Census 2000 and Sampling - NCTM Student Math Note (PDF file)
    Why do we need a census? The United States Constitution says the government must take a census--a count of the population--every ten years.

  • Census Bureau Home Page
    The official U.S. Census Web site from the United States Department of Commerce. Visit their Factfinder Kids' Corner.

  • Census Sampling Confusion - Ivars Peterson for Science News Online
    To obtain a more accurate enumeration in the year 2000, the Census Bureau has proposed integrating the results of conventional counting techniques with the results of a large sample survey of the population, but others want to use the straight count (direct enumeration). The central issue is whether the proposed adjustments to the census take out more error than they put in.

  • Computing Apportionment - U.S. Census Bureau
    An explanation of the complex mathematical formula used to compute how many House seats a state receives.

  • Herman Hollerith: Savior of the Census - University of Rochester
    An exhaustive site on Herman Hollerith's counting machine, an early prototype for the modern computer. Many of his techniques are still employed today.

  • Punched Cards Define Early Data Processing - Maxfield & Montrose Interactive
    A brief article on Hollerith's use of punched cards to record data. Punched cards became the industry standard for over half a century.

  • Sampling and the Census - Ivars Peterson for Science News Online
    Despite strong support from statisticians, the Census Bureau's plan to increase the use of sampling in the next census has met resistance in Congress.

  • United States Historical Census Data Browser - Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR)
    A database containing information about the people and the economy of the US for each state and county from 1790 to 1970.

  • World Population Counter - David Levine
    A site that gives the world's population at the time of page access and at a time in the past or the future.



From the Ask Dr. Math Archives:


From the Math Forum's Discrete Math Problem of the Week [requires membership to access]



U.S. Census 2000
by Cynthia Holzschuher, Janet Corcoran
Teacher Created Materials; ISBN: 0743930126

U S A by Numbers: A Statistical Portrait of the United States/With Teaching Kit
Swan Weber (Editor)
Zero Population Growth; ISBN: 0945219008

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