Using Relevant Data to Teach Percentage, Pie and Bar Graphs

The Center for Workforce Education (CWE), at Georgetown University, recently published the report, Balancing Work and Learning Implications for Low-Income Students.  This report shares survey data from the U.S. Census, as well as CWE director, Anthony Carnevale.  The numbers are sobering for low-income, adult learners who work and attend college.  Below are several highlights from the report:

  • Close to 70 percent of all college students work, they don’t make enough to be able to afford college, both because their wages are lower in real terms than those of previous generations and because the cost of college has skyrocketed. 
  • In 2015, the average annual earnings of an enrolled undergraduate working a 29-hour workweek were $16,000. Income levels this meager are simply not enough to pay tuition and fees at most colleges, let alone cover housing, food, transportation, and other living expenses.
  • Among students working less than 15 hours per week, 61 percent maintained a B average or higher.
  • Students who work more than 15 hours have worse grades and are less likely to complete their college program. On average, nearly half (47%) of students working 15 or more hours a week had a grade average of C or lower.

This is not new information to many in adult education classrooms, but there are two questions I'd like to ask:

1.  Does using this type of data - and the visual displays (pie and bar graphs) in the appendix have a place in adult education math classes?

2. If it provides relevance to students' understanding of percentages and graphs, can it also be used as the basis for writing prompts?  For example, can learners use this data to share their own stories? 


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator