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Social Studies: Area and Population Density

Summary: Students work with the concept of population density and then discuss the significance of the population densities of Minnesota and China.

Minnesota Academic Standards Information

Subject Area Focus: Social Studies

Educational Level: Teachers may adapt the activity for the various grade levels. Intermediate, Middle, High

High (9-12) Level

The student will understand the regional distribution of human population at local to global scales and its patterns of change.

For the complete standard, see the Minnesota Academic Standards web site at http://education.state.mn.us/mde/Academic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/index.html

Middle (6-8) Level

The student will make and use maps to acquire, process, and report on the spatial organization of people and places on Earth.

For the complete standard, see the Minnesota Academic Standards web site at http://education.state.mn.us/mde/Academic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/index.html

Intermediate (4-5) Level

For the complete standard, see the Minnesota Academic Standards web site at http://education.state.mn.us/mde/Academic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/index.html

The student will make and use maps to acquire, process, and report on the spatial organization of people and places on Earth.

LEARNING ACTIVITY

Directions

Objectives:

  1. To understand the concept of population density.
  2. To consider how geography affects population density. 

Preparation: None

Time Required: 20-50 minutes

Description

  1. Explain that population density is a ratio of the number of people to a given unit of area (e.g., square mile, square foot, etc.). 
  2. Have students explore population density in your school.
    • First pose these questions to students: What is the population density of our classroom? What units of measurement should we use? Have students work together or in small groups to solve the problem. 
       
    • Using the same process, find the population density of other school related areas such as the lunchroom, the library, or a bus. 
       
    • Compare the population density in each of the areas. Think about how crowded each space feels to you.  How does your perception of the feeling of the space compare to its population density?
  1. Demonstrate the population densities of China and the United States, which are about the same size in area.  In the classroom, outline an area about five feet square with yarn or tape.  Have three students stand inside to represent the density in the United States.  In another area the same size have 14 students stand inside to represent China. Discuss what effects such difference in population density has on the countries. For another comparison, compare the population density of the province of Shandong (1513) with that of Minnesota (53), noting that it is 28 times more dense in Shandong.
  2. Have students review and compare the population densities of a variety of communities. If you want to integrate math calculations, have students calculate the population densities from the population and area. Otherwise, use just the population density figures directly. 

Learning Resources

U.S. Census Bureau FactFinder

http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/BasicFactsServlet
You can search for data by state, county, or city.

Minnesota Fun Facts (published for young people) from the U.S. Census Bureau

http://factfinder.census.gov/home/en/kids/funfacts/minnesota.html

Minnesota Datanet

http://www.mnplan.state.mn.us/datanetweb/

Printable Materials: None

Evidence of Learning: The following product(s) supply evidence of student learning.

  • Presentation of data.
  • Classroom discussions.

Special Notes

Technology Integration:

Incorporate technology tools and resources in ways that enhance and support teaching and learning.

  • To integrate technology tools, have students use a spreadsheet for the calculations and to create a bar chart.

Accommodations

Change the activity to accommodate students with different needs, knowledge and skills.

  • Provide calculators or pre-programmed spreadsheets for computations.

Extensions

Extend students' learning with additional activities.

  • Study changes over time in an area’s population density.

Sources/Credits: New International Atlas (1998), Rand McNally.

Benton, B., Comparing school population densities. In NCSS Publications. (1997). Tora no maki II: Lessons for teaching about contemporary Japan. (pp. 17-19). National Council for Social Studies.