Developing Critical Numeracy Across the Curriculum

Teaching Activity

How cluttered are Australian homes?

What are the implications of valuing stuff?
7/8/9  Stage: 9/10/11
with emphasis on:

Maths Concepts: Number, Average, Graphing
Context: Society, Environment
Critical Numeracy: De-coding, Meaning-making, Using
Date of Article:24/01/2008
Student Worksheet
Student Worksheet answers

Teacher Guidelines:

This article reports on a national study on the amount of clutter in Australian homes, the impact on the people living there and the environment. Classroom discussion could examine the role of junk in causing Australians to buy homes larger than they need. What are the implications for sustainable living and financial burdens on households? Why do we need it in the first place? What might it mean to reduce our amount of consumption of stuff?

Orienting Questions

What are the implications of valuing stuff?

Why do we buy or keep stuff? When does it become junk? What impact is it having on us or our environment?


We first help students de-code the article by asking what average means in this context and getting them to manipulate some of the numbers.


To get further inside the notion of average, we ask students to use a map of houses on a street to work out how many cluttered rooms each house would have. This gives a visual representation which combines facts from the article -  "on average Australian homes have three cluttered rooms", yet 12% of homes have no clutter.


We give students a bar graph from the study in order to tell their own story for a newspaper article. They may need guidance in interpreting it.

We ask students to imagine the questions they might ask if they were doing the study.


A class discussion could look at the usefulness of the study and the questions asked. How might the questions have shaped what the study found? What questions might they now like to ask the researcher?


What did you learn? How has your thinking on this topic changed? What new maths skills have you developed? What thinking strategies have you found useful?

What investigation would you like to consider now?

Extension - sustainability project

The national study categorises clutter as emotional clutter, just-in-case clutter, bought clutter, bargain clutter with other interesting ideas about what contributes to the way people buy and keep stuff.

Students could consider how they might encourage people to give up their junk to ease the psychological, financial and ecological burden. How could the junk be recycled? What would make people let go of their junk?

Students could use the results of the national study to conduct their own one which that look at ways to change people's behaviour patterns. 

What are the underpinning social behaviour patterns? What drives consumerism? Check out The story of STUFF

Other investigations could look at creating indicators for effective use of stuff  - eg. cost per use, time taken before moving from purchase to "junk"...etc.

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