Find out about DWoK! Student Page Language Arts Math Science Bibliography Science: Lesson Two


Montana County Population Project

Shawn Harris, Grade 7, Math

The content concepts:

The content concepts highlighted here are data collection, spatial design, graphing, using

Microsoft Excel for graph design, evaluation of graphs and raw data

The objectives:

The students will demonstrate the ability to collect data from a variety of internet sources.
The student will demonstrate the ability to graph data collected in either a bar or a line
graph with correct labels, appropriate intervals, minimums, and maximums.
The student will demonstrate the ability to use Microsoft Excel to graph the above.
The student will demonstrate the ability to evaluate the graphs of themselves and others.

The skills the students will need to learn to accomplish the tasks in this unit include:

ability to use Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator; ability to interpret raw population data; ability to evaluate raw data and graphs; ability to write a short expository paper that compares the information found on the graphs of different groups of students.

Assessment will take place in the following ways:

See included rubric for formal evaluation of the project, graph, writing, county outline; informal evaluation will be through observation of student skills and thinking as they discuss work with each other and teacher

Students will need to have the following background skills for completion of this project:

The students will need to have an understanding of bar and line graphs, and the uses for each. They need to have an understanding of the fact that Montana has 56 counties, and they differ significantly in size, population, and natural resources. They will need to have a beginning understanding of how population is effected by natural resources and location. This curriculum unit will take place at Ronan Middle School in the math room and computer lab in the library.


This activity will allow for whole group instruction during the modeling of the processes to be used and then small group as the students do their actual project. In addition, the teacher lead activities will be the demonstration of the processes and those mini-lessons needed by groups to continue on their project. The student lead activities will be the remainder of the process as they gather information, create graphs and county maps, and evaluate the information they have gained.

Students will be grouped based on their interest in different parts of the state. The teacher will look at the groups formed and make final decisions so that groups have students in them that are a good balance of artistic ability, writing ability, and mathematical ability. This has been a successful method as the student interest in the county chosen has been very motivating for the students involved. For this project, a group of two or three has been best.

Internet research sites Include:

Required Materials:

  1. Posterboard-enough for students to create 56 county maps
  2. Markers
  3. Paint
  4. Colored pencils
  5. Graph paper, different types so students have choices
  6. 6-8 computers with sites bookmarked and Excel for graphing
  7. Overhead projector (this works well with two so there is not so much waiting)
  8. Overhead transparencies (2-3) of the State of Montana with county lines, rivers, county seats
  9. Large map of Montana made from same overhead transparency used above to put the finished student counties into

Lesson Plans:

Day One:

The teacher will use the Proxima Lightbook computer projector to project the desktop for demonstration to teach the students how to use Microsoft Internet Explorer/Netscape Navigator and it's "favorites/bookmarks" feature. The teacher will show the students the highlighted folder of Montana county population sites and what information is contained in each. The teacher will show the students how to cut and paste only the information they need for the county that they are working on.

Prior to the demonstration, the teacher will hand out the student page (see below) to the students so that they are clear on the information they are looking for on the computer. After the demonstration, the teacher will also pass out the assessment rubric (see below) and discuss with students. In addition, the teacher will present exemplars of student products.

Days 2, 3, and 4:

The students will have time to practice the demonstrated skills while finding the information on the county that they chose to work on. There will be several stations open for the students to work on. They may choose between working on the overhead tracing their county outline or working on the computer gathering information on their county. During these three days, the students will also illustrate their maps to show the county seat and other important cities and towns. They also need to include any major rivers or other bodies of water as well as any major mountain ranges or other geographical features.

Days 5, 6, and 7:

The students will graph the information they have found from the Internet regarding county population. They will find their county's minimum and maximum populations and decide on appropriate minimums and maximums for their graph. They will also decide on the type of graph they want to make and the interval that would be appropriate based on the materials they are using and the numbers they have. During this time, the teacher will take small groups of children and teach them Microsoft Excel.

Day 8:

The students will finish their graphs. They will color their counties by deciding whether their county has increased, decreased, or stayed stable (within 100) on population and coloring the county the appropriate color from the student instruction sheet. (Colored pencils are best, as they do not cover over all the other work the student has done on the map.)

Day 9:

The students will present their information for the group and will put their county up on the large state map made earlier in the lesson by the teacher. They will also put their graph up on the wall around the state map. They will use a piece of yarn to attach the graph to the county so viewers can more easily connect the two.

Day 10:

The student groups will, after looking at the graphs and the map, write their short paper comparing their county to several others as far as population, the resources available there, and the businesses found there. This is to be turned in to the teacher by the period's end.

Day 11:

Using the student assessment rubric given to them at the beginning of the unit, the students will assess their own work. They will circle on the rubric the attributes of the project that they see in their work and give themselves a numerical score based on the attributes they saw.

Examples of Student Work:

County.jpg (33813 bytes)

This is a photo of the 10' by 15' wall outside my classroom

that is covered with the students county maps applied to a

larger Montana map and the students graphs.  This was a

source of great pride to them!

Student Page:

(to be given to students as a direction page)

For this project, you will need to do the following:

Create a map of your county including:

County seat

Major cities or towns

Major waterways

Major geographical landmarks

Find the population of your county in 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 1998
Create a graph, either bar, line, or pictograph, of your county’s population including:

Labels for each axis

Title and Names of members of your group

Appropriate maximums, minimums, and intervals for the axes

Color your county outline with:

Red: for counties that are decreasing in population

Yellow: for counties that are stable in population

Green: for counties that are increasing in population

Create symbols and put on your county map for any growth industries, businesses, or government agencies that cause growth in your county
Write a short paper telling the percent of population increase or decrease between 1900 and 1998. After comparing with other groups, write reasons for your county’s increase or decrease in population. What has brought people to your county or why have they left? Has your county had a greater or lesser increase than other counties and why? This paper should be one written page, double-spaced in length covering the above questions completely. Use the rubric below for further information.

Math Formal Assessment Rubric:

Project Part:




County Outline:

1. Shape from overhead

2. Major cities and waterways

3. Colored:

Red: decline, Yellow: stable, Green: increase

7. Symbols for businesses

County is correct shape.

County has major cities and waterways in it.

County has symbols of major businesses, etc. on it.

County is colored correctly.

County is marginal in shape.

Some cities are in it.

County is colored correctly.

County has some symbols in it representing major businesses, etc.

County is incorrect in shape.

No cities or waterways are included.

The county is not the correct color.

There are no symbols for businesses, etc.


1. Bar, line, or pictograph with labeled axes and a title.

2. Population in: 1900,1910,1920,




Minimum, maximum, and scale for graph are appropriate.

The graph is labeled and titled.

All years’ population numbers are correct.

Graph is attractive and easy to read.

Minimum, maximum, and scale are marginally correct.

Information is marginally correct. Graph is partially labeled, has a title, and is readable.

Minimum, maximum, and scale on graph are inappropriate. Information is incorrect.

The graph is not labeled or does not have a title.

Graph has incorrect information. Graph is difficult to read or is messy.

Written Piece:

1. Percent increase or percent decrease from 1900 to 1998.

2. Reasons for the increase/decrease.


Percent increase/decrease is figured correctly and complete reasons are given for the increase/decrease.

The writing is easily read and understood.

There are few errors.

Percent increase/decrease may have calculation errors but process is logical.

Some reasons are given for increase/decrease.

Some logic is evident in reasoning. The writing is readable and understandable but there may be some errors.

Percent increase/decrease is flawed in process and incorrect.

No reasons are given for increase or decrease.

No logic is evident in reasoning.

The writing is not understandable or there are many errors.

Additional Websites:

Lemonade Stand, good for kids to use

The AIMS Puzzle Corner, another good "kid" page

MathMagic!, good for both kids and teachers, good for everyone

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