Teaching maths using real world data: a Young Lives collaboration with Oxfam

Data collected by Young Lives about the daily lives of children in its four study countries has been used to create an engaging new resource to teach maths to schoolchildren in the UK.

‘Everyone Counts’ is a free resource for teachers developed by Young Lives with the Youth and Education team at Oxfam GB. Drawing on surveys and in-depth interviews with the Young Lives study children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam, the resource helps deliver key elements of the maths curriculum for children aged 8 to 12.

The material enables students to develop their skills and understanding of topics such as time and data handling - for example, pupils use data about the daily activities of Young Lives children to calculate and compare time spent on tasks, using analogue clocks and digital 12- and 24-hour clocks.

It also encourages pupils to think critically about poverty and inequality. They construct graphs based on data about life expectancy around the world and interpret graphs showing changes in GDP per capita in Young Lives countries. They also examine concepts that affect the Young Lives children, such as well- being and what it means to be ‘doing well’ in life.

Liz Newbon, Oxfam’s Education and Youth Adviser, explains: “Real-life data is in constant demand by teachers. "Everyone Counts" enables pupils to explore how inequality affects the lives of children in different parts of the globe.”

The Mathematical Association was involved at all stages of development of the resource. Rachel Horsman from the Association described it as: 'A great resource ... The real-life data and links between the pupils overseas and at home make the whole project more engaging for pupils.'

'Everyone Counts' has already been downloaded more than 10,000 times, far exceeding original estimates. Teachers and children alike have been positive: 'I liked learning not just about our country but about different countries too and I liked the real data,' said one child.

More recently the Oxfam team has worked with Young Lives on 'More or Less Equal', a cross-curricular resource for 11- to 14-year-olds covering mathematics, geography and English.

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Photo: © Antonio Fiorente / Young Lives