Measuring Human Rights: High School Mathematics Unit

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Navigate a complex Internet-based informational source such as the Gapminder website.
  • Understand the relationships among an individual such as Hans Rosling, his Gapminder Foundation, and the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the monitoring of rights through statistical indicators.
  • Generate and interpret interactive graphic displays of data using the Gapminder Trendalyzer software, and evaluate information presented through the Gapminder website.
  • Use information from the Gapminder website to study and continue to formulate a response to the unit’s essential question.

Standards Addressed

ELA/Literacy RI.1.11-12: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

ELA/Literacy RI.7.11-12: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Instructional Approach

Introductory Discussion

Have students share what they have learned about Hans Rosling and his Gapminder Foundation through their web explorations. Make a list of things they know (or surmise) about Rosling.

Ask students: Why is it important to know something about Rosling if we are going to use information from his website? How/why might we look differently at that information than the information we found on the WHO website?

Following this initial discussion, have students navigate to the introductory portal to the Gapminder site at: [Alternately, project this webpage for them or provide them with a printout of it.] Have them see how to navigate the site by clicking on the tabs at the top – first “Gapminder World” and then “Data.” Given the sortable database of Indicators in Gapminder World, ask them to make some observations about how the information is organized and can be accessed. Point out that the database includes 519 separate entries (this number is indicated at the bottom of each page).  

Ask students how they might search for data on health, nutrition, children’s weight by age, or BMI – topics they have previously researched on other websites. Then navigate with them to page 14 and find the indicator for “Malnutrition, weight for age (% of children under 5).” First ask them to examine how this data is categorized and from where it comes [the World Bank]. Then project for them – or have them navigate to – the Indicator Summary, by clicking on the indicator name. Have them read closely the definition provided:

Prevalence of child malnutrition is the percentage of children under age 5 whose weight for age is more than two standard deviations below the median for the international reference population ages 0-59 months. The data are based on the WHO's new child growth standards released in 2006. Source: World Health Organization, Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition.

Ask them:

  • How is this definition from Gapminder related to what we have read previously about underweight children and growth standards? 
  • How does this information help us connect data on Gapminder to other data and our essential question about measuring the human right to food?

Using this, or another pertinent indicator, demonstrate how the Gapminder World graphic interface works (the Download, View, and Visualize fields and icons), showing students various ways of representing data from places in the world and over time. Discuss how these features might be valuable in studying patterns of data related to the attainment of human rights.

If computers/tablets are available (or as homework), have students further explore the Gapminder World Indicators database, searching for additional indicators/links related either to Article 25 of the UDHR and/or to the UDHR Article they personally analyzed and interpreted in Lesson 1. Students can access and study one or more of these indicators/links, individually, in groups, or as a class. For each indicator/link studied, students can respond to the following text-dependent questions (which could be formatted into a worksheet or graphic organizer to be used in recording information):

  1. How might someone access this link/webpage (URL, navigation information etc.)?

  2. In general, what data is presented through this indicator/link?

  3. What is the source for the information/data presented through this indicator/link?

  4. How is the information applicable to measuring a human right from the UDHR?


Students can report back, either in writing or orally, what they have learned about Hans Rosling, Gapminder, and the Gapminder World Indicators – or develop and submit informal written answers to the text-dependent questions. Their ability to use the website and its features will also be assessed in Math Lesson 11 and the summative performance assessment task.

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