German or English


German or English

Pupils use pie charts to decide whether a code is more likely to be in German or English.

Practical details

National Curriculum levels 4 to 7
About 45 minutes
Paper and calculator; pupils might also ask for an angle measurer and a pair of compasses.

Key Processes involved

Decide how to present the information in a form that enables comparison between the two languages.
Compare the unknown text against the pie charts.
Interpreting and evaluating
Form an argument for one (or both) of the languages.
Communicating and reflecting
Present arguments and reflect on the validity of their results.

Teacher guidance

You might set the scene by showing the task on a whiteboard and commenting:

  • There are two pie charts, one with information relating to German and one for English. There is also a text with the words missing.
  • Use the pie charts to decide whether the text is more likely to be German or English
  • Look at everything you have been given and think about your reasons carefully. Show your reasons: even code-breakers have to explain how they break codes!

Pupils need to devise a strategy for analysing the ‘unknown’ text, make their comparisons and decide which language is most likely. More able pupils should recognise that there are arguments for both languages and that their ability to make a definitive choice is limited by the small number of words in the unknown text. The Annex has values shown for teachers.

The task requires an understanding of proportionality and interpretation of pie charts.

During the work, the following probing questions may be helpful:

  • What are the differences between text in English and in German?
  • How did you work out the percentages / angles / values in the pie charts?
  • You decided that the language is English (German). What are your reasons for your decision?
  • How confident are you that your answer is correct? 100%? 0%? 50%? Why?
  • What would make you more certain?