SISL > 2012 Sustainability in Math Workshop > Activities > Shift in life expectancy

Shift in life expectancy

Holly L. Partridge
Genesee Valley Educational Partnership
Batavia, NY 14020
Author Profile


Students will collect data and graph the ages of a sampling of people in their area looking at 2 different time periods. Collection of data will be done at a local cemetery and generated graphs will be compared to determine any change in life expectancy. Discussion about reasoning for the shift will conclude the activity.

Learning Goals

Students will observe life expectancy changes and discuss the impact of longer life expectancy on the environment and earth's resources.

  • Prepares students to build effective coalitions
  • Engages students in civil discourse/ communications that lead to more effective decisions
  • Catalyzes collective actions
  • Advances students' literacy around sustainability issues.
  • Encourages self-reflection and personal development of their voice for solving societal challenges
  • Promotes creative visioning around sustainable futures

Context for Use

In this activity students will determine age at death in a field activity. Students will travel to a local, large, old, cemetery. They will break into pairs and collect the ages at death of 50 people in each of the following time periods - 1900-1940 and 1960-2000. They will subtract birth date from death date to determine age of death and record this as well as sex. Students should travel to various quadrants of the cemetery to collect a larger sample size. Returning to the classroom, students will compile and graph data based on age at death and sex for each time period. Discussion will address any reasons for changes in life expectancy including healthcare, nutrition, OSHA, life style and the impact of having a larger older population

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

It is helpful to develop graphs using the same scale.


Discussion of the shift in life expectancy over the period of a century and how social and environmental factors are going to be effected.

References and Resources