What Is the 80/20 Rule? Fun with Grandchildren

By on Aug 12, 2013 in education, NaBloPoMo | 7 comments

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What Is the 80/20 Rule? Fun with Grandchildren

Distribution – 80/20 rule 

English: Example Pareto chart
Pareto chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who noticed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy belonged to 20 percent of the people and that 80% of his pea pods came from 20% of his peas. An American engineer, Joseph Juran, popularized these observations, named them the Pareto principle, also called the 80/20 rule, and applied them to quality improvement techniques in business in the 1940s. The 80/20 rule means that in many cases, 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes.

Juran, for example, found several applications for the Pareto principle in business, observing that:

Let’s see if our grandchildren can illustrate the 80/20 rule.



What Should Happen?

There should be a lot more of one type of bird than any other. In our yard, for instance it is sparrows. Though we have a lot of different birds, hummingbirds, cardinals, golden finches and phoebes, sparrows predominate by far.

Why Is This Useful?

If you know what category predominates, you may be able to change the numbers. For instance, if we wanted more hummingbirds, we could plant more hummingbird-friendly flowers. Or we could find out the kind of birdseed finches or cardinals like and put that into a bird feeder.

I used to live in Fairfax County, Virginia. Before they started their recycling program, they gathered trash bags and counted the types of trash people were throwing away. They found that newspapers, cardboard, aluminum cans and glass bottles, represented more than two-thirds of the volume of trash they were collecting. They gave everyone in the county a small bin and asked them to separate those items from their trash and put it in the bin. We reduced the number of trashcans we put out every week from three to one, plus a small bin of recyclables.

The Pareto distribution, a few large samples and lots of small samples, applies to a number of areas:

Thanks to the book Thinking Tools for Kids, by Barbara Cleary and Sally Duncan  for their suggestions and to Pat Weber who first mentioned the Pareto principle on a grandmotherdiaries.com comment.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”