1. Have students create a thematic map of population density of the United States.
Have students use data from the provided U.S. Census Bureau website to create a thematic map of population density on one of the large maps of the Americas from the Americas MapMaker Kit. Have students create a symbol for population density; for example, one figure = one million people, and cut out and tape the symbols onto the large map of the Americas to show the population of different states.
2. Have a whole-class discussion about the patterns of population density on the large map.
Explain to students that people prefer to live in places that are most convenient and hospitable. These places are usually close to the coast or to rivers and other transportation corridors. In the United States, over half the population lives within fifty miles of the coast. Ask: Where is the population of the United States most and least dense? Why?
3. Have students compare their thematic map to the NG Education interactive map with the Land Cover data layer selected.
Display for students the NG Education interactive map with the Land Cover data layer selected. Have students compare it to their population density layer on the large map of the Americas and identify any relationships they see. Point out how the population density is lower in areas with forests, deserts, and mountains. Ask: Why do those factors affect population density? What other factors affect population density?
- create a thematic map showing population density in the United States
- describe the patterns on the thematic map and the reasons for them
- compare two thematic maps and recognize relationships between different layers of information
- Hands-on learning
Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices
National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards
- Theme 3: People, Places, and Environments
National Geography Standards
- Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information
- Standard 12: The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
- Standard 3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface
What You’ll Need
Materials You Provide
The resources are also available at the top of the page.
- Internet Access: Required
- Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector
- Plug-Ins: Flash
Before starting this activity, assemble the Americas Mega Map.
Geographers use maps to convey information to others. You can display physical, political or cultural information, or use maps to illustrate specific themes and topics. Maps are useful in helping to see patterns or relationships between layers of information.
Recommended Prior Activities
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry population density Noun
the number of people living in a set area, such as a square mile.
thematic map Noun
representation of data on a specific topic for a specific area.