Saturday, 20 November 2010

There are 9 million bicycles in Bejing

I was never particularly brilliant at Geography, which probably explains why I often ask "Where am I?" but that's another topic, but I did spend many hours with a small paperback Atlas, especially those little maps of the world where the sizes of the countries were changed to reflect their population, fridges per person or whatever.

I'm still fascinated by statistics and maps, though, and The CIA World Factbook is one of those sites I can wander around for ages. You learn that there are more girls than boys in Ukraine, for example, which may explain why there always seem to be a lot on stage in most of their Eurovision entries. And there's not a lot going on in the phosphate mines on Christmas Island these days but no doubt many of its 1,402 population will be enjoying a vaguely palindromic Christmas Island Christmas soon, knowing that no other country can do that.

Back in the 1990s the data was available in a huge workbook with hundreds of sheets and that was a great tool to use in Excel classes. Now it's all web page stuff and not so easy to play with. However, it's still got a massive amount of well-displayed, and reliable, data which is updated every two weeks or so. The whole shooting match can be downloaded too, free, which is nice when the internet breaks down in class and you need to give students some research to do. With so much data available, thinking up some questions to keep them interested shouldn't take long - and there are maps galore too.

You might also have a giggle at the Kids' page which includes the classic line "CIA employees gather intelligence (or information) in a variety of ways, not just by “spying” like you see in the movies or on TV (though we do some of that, too).

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