Lesson Plan

Population Explosion - Understanding Population Density

The math and map reading skills needed for human geography
Lisa B.
Classroom teacher
Hershey Middle School
Hershey, PA
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My Grades 6, 7, 8
My Subjects Social Studies
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Students will be able to...

  • Describe the ratio of population per square mile in a complete sentence. 
  • Create visuals to compare the differences in ratios of population density. 
  • Calculate the population density of an area after determining the population and the area. 
  • Identify problems faced because of population based on simulations and photographs. 

Common Core Connection: 

  • 6.RP.A.1. Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. 
  • 6.RP.A.2. Understand the concept of a unit rate a/b associated with a ratio a:b, and use rate language in the context of a ratio relationship. 
  • RH.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g. in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts. 
  • WHST.6-8.8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation. 
  • WHST.6-8.9. Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Social Studies
global awareness
Grades 6 - 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Planning

Metria Learning is a tool for teachers and would not be engaging to students; however, it does have merit as something that could potentially help teachers improve their craft. It would be used to integrate CCSS Math into a Social Studies lesson with consistent language in the lesson planning and teaching stages. 

2 Hook

Introduce the world's population with a short video. There are many options on YouTube. I use 7 Billion from National Geographic

The three minute video explains how rapidly the population is expanding. It also mentions related concepts like life expectancy and urbanization. The video is a preview of the National Geographic Magazine special series on the same topic. 

3 Direct Instruction

The flipped lesson could be assigned as homework the night before so the students come to class ready to apply the learning. 

Any Interactive Whiteboard app could be used to create a Flipped Lesson to teach the math behind population density, like the example from ShowMe.

Students would have already been taught ratio and simplifying a fraction in math class, so the lesson is reviewing the concepts and applying them to real world geography situations. 

4 Guided Practice

Working with research group, fill in a Google Spreadsheet with cities of their choosing with the area, the population, and the calculated population density, link to sources. 

The Google Spreadsheet would be created by the teacher and shared with each group. Groups would have specific rows they were responsible for filling in. Only one student in their group would be an editor. The other students would be researchers or mathematicians. 

As a group, they would have to collaborate as a group to determine which cities to research and which search terms to use to gather relevant information from print and digital resources (WHST.6-8.8.)

There are also classroom print resources that provide population and areas that the students could utilize. 

5 Analysis

Using the National Geographic Map Maker Interactive, the students will learn and practice how to read a population density map. Population Density is one of the map layer options.

There are a series of questions the students would work with their group to answer: 

  • Does the map agree with our calculations?

  • What could account for error?
  • Where in the world are there the most people? Why?
  • Where is the lowest population density? Why?  

After the groups had a chance to discuss the answers and update the Google Spreadsheet, we would debrief as an entire class. 

6 Simulation

Students will work with a partner to play one of the simulations: either Enercities or SimCity. 

Students will play the game with the essential question prompt: What are the challenges as population increases?  The question ties back to the population video shown at the beginning of the lesson. 

Students should write their observations based on evidence from the simulations on paper. Some example answers that both simulation games quickly alert students to are: rising crime rates, energy consumption, traffic issues, pollution, and cost of living. There needs to be a balance between residential, commercial, and industry. Safety and public services cost money, which is dependent on taxes. 

7 Community Connection

Students will continue to work with their partner. They will examine Google Earth with Time Lapse Layer for our region.

  • How has our region changed over time? Why?
  • There homework assignment would be to talk to your parents or older adults from the area, what changes have they noticed in our region? 

8 Extension


Students will view a teacher-created Voicethread with images of population issues around the world. Students should draw evidence from the lessons to reflect on the pictures. The students will communicate their learning and feelings on a couple of the pictures and respond to their classmates as well.