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Grades 3-5
This lesson has students combine information from statistics and maps to find out about world and national population characteristics . Students will determine which countries and states appear to be particularly crowded and which states are sparsely populated. They will conclude by discussing what it might be like to live in a very crowded or a very sparsely populated state.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 9: "The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface"
Three hours

Materials Required:
Students will
  • discuss whether they live in a crowded place;
  • map the world's ten most populous countries;
  • discuss which countries seem the most crowded;
  • find and rank the populations for several states;
  • map those states; and
  • write paragraphs explaining which states seem the most and least crowded and what they think it would be like to live in these states.
Geographic Skills:

Acquiring Geographic Information
Organizing Geographic Information
Answering Geographic Questions
Analyzing Geographic Information

S u g g e s t e d   P r o c e d u r e
Ask students if they think the area they live in is crowded. Is there a lot of traffic? Does it ever seem like there are too many people on the sidewalk, at the park, or on the road? Have they ever been to a place that is more or less crowded than where they live? What did they think of this place?
Have students look at the list of the ten most populous countries available at the Population Pasta activity . Give each student a blank world outline map and ask them to label the countries on the list. They should refer to an atlas or the MapMachine to find out where the countries are located.

Have students look at their maps and ask them to explain which countries seem the most crowded. Ask them what they think it would be like to live in a country that has a high population but a low land area.

Have students go to the U.S. Census Bureau's Kids' Corner . Have them click on the maps for the following states and record the state populations on their own papers:

  • Their home state
  • California
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts
  • Wyoming
  • Montana
  • Two other states
Have students look at their lists and rank the states in order from one to eight, with one being the most populous state on the list. Point out that California is the nation's most populous state, while Wyoming is the least populous.

Give each student a blank United States outline map , and ask them to label the states on their list. Next to each state's name, have them write its rank from their lists.

Ask students to consider and discuss what they think it might be like to live in some of the states on their maps. What would it be like in a state that's very small but has a large population? What about a state that is large but has a small population? Has anyone ever been to or lived in one of these states? What was it like?
Suggested Student Assessment:
Have students analyze their maps to determine which of the states seem the most and the least crowded. Have them write paragraphs explaining what the maps show.

Have students write additional paragraphs explaining what they think it would be like to live in the most and the least populous states on their maps.

Extending the Lesson:
Have students research the most and least populous states on their maps to find out what it might be like to live in one of these places. They should find out whether there are any large cities in the states and look for information describing the primary economic and recreational activities.
Related Links: