Developing Critical Numeracy Across the Curriculum

Teaching Activity

What is the impact of ill-health in workplaces?

How can we be more productive in our work?
7/8 Stage: 9/10/11
with emphasis on:

Maths Concepts: Number, average, surveying
Context: Society, Health and Wellbeing
Critical Numeracy: De-coding, Meaning-making,
Using, Analysing
Date of Article: 25/03/08, pg 8
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Student Worksheet

Teacher Guidelines:

This article looks at the impact of ill-health on workplace productivity and absenteeism, based on a Tasmanian study. It can be used as a basis for exploring ideas of productivity not just in the workplace but also in the school environment. Teachers will need to have access to 10 days of absenteeism data for their students.

Orienting Questions

How can we be more productive in our work?

What is the impact of ill-health on productivity in the workplace? Why do people take "sickies" and what does it cost? Who is affected when people are away? Are some jobs more important than others? How does absenteeism in the workplace compare to absenteeism in schools?   How can we help people be more productive? Why do we value being productive?


The article uses numbers in many different ways, which can be quite confusing. The worksheet asks students to list the different terminology and the different ways numbers have been used.


To help students make sense of the data within their own context they are asked to work out from class absenteeism data the percentage of students away each day and the average for a 10 day period. The are asked to plot a graph, make observations about the data and compare it to the study's findings.


The article suggests that health programs in workplaces can improve productivity. Students are asked to think about how they might design a study to test whether students doing PE have less absenteeism than those who don't.


Following completion of the worksheet students can be asked to read the article again and now critique it in a group to present to the class for discussion. How is the article positioning us? What is the basis for its claims? Is it over-claiming? Is it fair to different stakeholders? What further information is needed? Why is it important to be productive?


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?


Students might wish to conduct a study to explore the correlation between healthy activities and absenteeism in their school.  Alternatively they could look at other issues of productivity within their schools and design surveys to test other hypotheses.

Students could be challenged to create an advert that either encourages people to be more healthy and productive OR tries to sell the impossible (Gruen Transfer The Pitch challenge) - that to be a fat smoker is in fact a good thing. How can they bring in notions of productivity and what we value about productivity to such an advert?

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