(September 2013) PRB's World Population Data Sheet is an excellent reference and data analysis tool. Teachers are encouraged to have their students use the data sheet for a variety of topics and activities. The following are a series of short activities to provide access to the wealth of data on the world, regions, and individual countries.

This lesson plan uses PRB's 2013 World Population Data Sheet

  • Interactive Map for the 2013 World Population Data Sheet.
  • Interactive Infographic
  • World Population Clock
  • Graphics from the 2013 World Population Data Sheet

Also valuable are these teaching materials:

These lessons may also be used with PRB's online DataFinder, a searchable database that includes all the data from the most recent PRB World Population Data Sheet. Data can be displayed as a map, chart, or table, and downloaded into Excel. 

Grade Level: 6–12

Time Required: One class period for each activity.

Standards Addressed: Math and geography.

Vocabulary/Concepts: Population size, rate of natural increase, birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate, total fertility rate, life expectancy, age distribution.

Objectives:

  • Ask geographic questions about the population characteristics of a country.
  • Acquire information about the key population characteristics of a country, by using the World Population Data Sheet.
  • Organize population information about a country.
  • Compare and contrast population characteristics of selected countries.

Materials:

  • All activities: 2013 World Population Data Sheet (PDF: 2MB)
  • Activity 2: County Profile Worksheet (PDF: 23KB)
  • Activity 5: Country Outline Map (PDF: 94KB). Country outline maps for classroom use, including those for individual world regions, may be found online in a number of places, including at www.eduplace.com/ss/maps.

Activity 1: The World Population Data Sheet at a Glance

Find answers to the following questions using the current World Population Data Sheet.

  1. What is the population of the world?
  2. Rank the ten countries with the largest population (from largest to smallest).
  3. Instead of absolute numbers, rates are often used to tell how frequently a population or demographic event is occurring — rates show how common an event is. List the type of information on the data sheet reported by a rate.
  4. The crude death rate (CDR) is the annual number of deaths per 1,000 population. Which country (or countries) has the highest CDR? Which country (or countries) has the lowest?
  5. The infant mortality rate measures the number of deaths each year to infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births. Which country (or countries) has the highest infant mortality rate and what is that rate? Which country (or countries) has the lowest and what is that rate?
  6. The total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children women would have if they maintained the current level of childbearing throughout their reproductive years. Which countries (or countries) share the highest TFR and what is it? Which country (or countries) has the lowest TFR. What is it?
  7. Which country (or countries) has the "youngest" population, that is, the highest proportion of population under age 15? Which country (or countries) has the "oldest" population, that is, the highest proportion of population over age 64?
  8. In which country (or countries) are people expected to live the longest? Which country (or countries) has the lowest life expectancy?
  9. In which African country (or countries) does the highest proportion of people live in urban areas? In Asia? In Latin America? In Europe? In Oceania?
  10. Gross national income in purchasing power parity per capita (GNI PPP) converts income into "international dollars" and indicates the amount of goods and services one could buy in the United States with a given amount of money. Which country (or countries) is the wealthiest in terms of GNI PPP? Which is the second wealthiest?
  11. A population grows because there are more births than deaths or more people are moving in than moving out. The difference between births and deaths is expressed as a percentage called the rate of natural increase. Which region is growing the fastest through natural increase? Which region is growing at the slowest rate?
  12. Which country (or countries) is growing the fastest through natural increase? Which country (or countries) is growing at the slowest rate?
  13. A population projection is a computation of future changes in population numbers based on assumptions about future trends in fertility, mortality, and migration. Which categories on the data sheet are shown as projections?
  14. Rank the 10 countries with the largest projected populations for both 2025 and 2050 (from largest to the smallest). Which country's (or countries') population is projected to drop out of the top 10 by 2050? Which country's (or countries') is projected to be added to the top 10? Look back to the rankings for the current year. What are the major shifts in this ranking from now to 2050?
  15. Rank the regions according to population size (from largest to the smallest).

Activity 2: Profiling a Country

The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to the demographic indicators listed on the Data Sheet by providing them with a tool to organize population information about a country. As students study different countries they can accumulate country profiles in their notebook. Students will need to use the World Population Data Sheet and the Country Profile Worksheet.

  1. Display the Country Profile Worksheet. Distribute blank copies to students. Complete the profile of the United States, defining the indicators as they are mapped out on the worksheet. After completing the "country comparison blocks," discuss.
  2. Have students place a copy of the U.S. profiles in their notebooks. Have students complete a new profile each time they start a unit on a new country. Before they do the profile of the new country, students should develop hypotheses about the population characteristics about the country and use the mapping activity to test their hypotheses. They should compare the profile of each new country with the profile of the United States.
  3. As students learn more about the country, they can add other information from the Data Sheet (or other sources) to their profiles.

This lesson was adapted from a lesson developed by Jane Moriarty of the Michigan Geographic Alliance.

Activity 3: Figure It Out

Use the current World Population Data Sheet to complete the following:

  1. China and India have the largest populations in the world. Which of these two countries adds more people to its population annually? [Calculate numbers added by applying the rate of natural increase to the population of the country.] How many people does each country add annually? How many people would India add if it shared China's rate of natural increase?
  2. What proportion of the world's people live in Africa? In Asia? In North America? In Latin America? In Europe? In Oceania? What are the projected proportions? Draw a bar chart showing the regional distributions of the world's population for this year, 2025 and 2050.
  3. What proportion of the world's people live in less developed countries (LDCs) in the current year? In more developed countries (MDCs)? What proportion of the world's people is projected to live in LDCs in 2025? In 2050? What proportion is projected to live in MDCs in 2025? In 2050?
  4. Examine the crude birth rate, crude death rate, and rate of natural increase of any three countries listed on the World Population Data Sheet. Devise a formula to calculate the rate of natural increase based on the relationships observed.

Activity 4: Analyzing Data

Use the current World Population Data Sheet to complete the following:

  1. Choose four countries whose populations are growing at a 1.0 percent rate of natural increase or less (some with negative rates of natural increase are decreasing).
  2. Choose four countries whose populations are growing at 3.0 percent or more. Do not include the countries of Western Asia or the Middle East because they represent special cases and will be discussed later.
  3. Create a table which includes the following data for each of the above selected countries: infant mortality rate, total fertility rate, population under age 15, life expectancy, percent of urban population, and Gross National Income in purchasing power parity per capita (GNI PPP). Examine the table created above for important differences, and note what you observe for each variable by group. For example:
    High-Growth Countries Low-Growth Countries
    Infant Mortality High infant mortality Low infant mortality
    Total Fertility
    Population Under 15
    Life Expectancy
    Urban Population
    Per Capita GNI PPP
  4. Compare the characteristics for the above groups with countries that have a moderate rate of population growth.
  5. Describe how some countries such as Saudi Arabia and some of the oil-rich countries are exceptions to the generalizations you have made about fast-growing countries. Why are they different?

Activity 5: Mapping the Data

Mapping data is often a good method for analysis. Most of the demographic characteristics on the World Population Data Sheet lend themselves to mapping. A map that uses color to represent quantitative data is called a choropleth map. Areas are distinguished from one another using different colors or different shades of the same color based on the values they represent. Brighter colors or dark shades of the same color indicate greater values and dimmer colors or lighter shades indicate lesser values.

Choose one of the following demographic variables using the World Population Data Sheet and map the world or regional distribution of that indicator on a world or regional country outline map:

Infant Mortality Crude Birth Rate Crude Death Rate
Total Fertility Rate Percent 65 and Over Percent Under Age 15
Per Capita GNI PPP Life Expectancy Rate of Natural Increase

Note: PRB's online DataFinder automatically generates choropleth maps and is particularly appropriate for use with this activity. However, step-by-step instructions for creating a choropleth map by hand are below.

Create a choropleth map: Country Outline Map

Determine the mapping categories by finding the range of values for that indicator. Determine the number of categories to be used for your map and the interval of each category. For example:

  1. After choosing the variable, determine the highest and lowest values for that measure.
  2. Subtract these two numbers in order to calculate the range for the data.
  3. Divide the range by the number of mapping categories planned for the map. Four to five categories will be adequate for most measures. The number produced by the division will indicate how many numbers to include in each category interval.
  4. Always construct categories so that the numbers in one category do not overlap those in adjacent categories.
  5. Arrange a color code or shading pattern for each category. Colors or patterns should increase from light to dark, from lowest to highest category.
  6. Determine the proper mapping category for each country and color or shade the country on an outline map, title the map, place a legend on the page, and indicate the source.

Interpret the map

After the map has been drawn, consider the following to guide interpretation:

  1. Describe the patterns observed on the map.
  2. What accounts for the variation?
  3. Discuss the factors that could lead to the range of outcomes within this distribution.

Draw another map

Draw another map to examine the relationships that may exist between two variables or compare results with another student who has mapped a different variable. Possible pairs of variables to compare:

  • Infant Mortality — Life Expectancy
  • Natural Increase — Total Fertility
  • Crude Death Rate — Percent of Population Under Age 15
  • Crude Birth Rate — Percent of Population Over 64
  • Infant Mortality — Per Capita GNI PPP

Answer the following:

  1. Does there appear to be a relationship between the two variables? If so, is the relationship positive of negative? For example, are the countries with the highest rates of one variable the same countries with the highest rates of the other variable? If so, then the relationship is positive. If the countries with the highest rate of one variable also have the lowest rates in another, then the relationship is negative.
  2. Discuss whether or not the factors that contribute to the patterns in one variable affect the patterns in another.

This activity was adapted from exercises submitted by Eugene J. Kinerney of the University of the District of Columbia and Basheer K. Nijim of the University of Northern Iowa. The lesson plan was updated in 2013 by Paola Scommegna, PRB.