Spanish Version

Picture a Nation

Math Activity

In this activity, students take a "picture of their nation" by locating statistical information about the population of the United States and representing some aspect of it graphically.



  1. Review with students the different kinds of graphic organizers they can use to present statistics: line graphs, bar graphs, pictographs, and pie charts.

  2. Explain that students are to choose a time period (present, recent past, or more distant past) in America's history of immigration and use a graphic organizer to take a "picture" of that time. The picture might show some aspect of the population's ancestry in a single year. Or, it might show changes over a period of time. Some examples might be:
    • The four (or more) countries of origin from which the greatest number of immigrants came in a particular year
    • Immigration by continent during a single year
    • The rise or fall of immigration from a single country/continent over a period of years
    • Ancestry of the U. S. population based on the most recent census
    • A particular state's population by ancestry (Census information is accessible through the U. S. Bureau of the Census)
    • A comparison of two (or more) state populations by countries of origin or ancestry

  3. Encourage students to research periods they are especially interested in, which may correspond to their family origins. They may wish to choose the time period during which the majority of their family emigrated to the United States. For example: Italy from 1918-1920; Ireland in 1910; Indochina in 1977 as compared to 1940.

  4. Have students share their graphic organizers with the class. Encourage students to discuss what the numbers mean in terms of real people: the immigrants themselves and those already living here.


Some students may want to write a piece of realistic fiction about a family whose story is symbolized by the numbers and graphs.

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