Measuring Human Rights: High School Mathematics Unit

Instructional Notes

The culminating performance task for this unit asks students to synthesize what they have learned – about the UDHR and the measurement of human rights, about researching information through primary sources and reading those sources closely, about indicators and measures, about interpreting and representing data, and about using mathematics to study a real world problem such as the attainment of universal human rights.

Students can be directed to approach the task independently (if they are ready), in small groups, or with teacher-provided scaffolding and support. If students work collaboratively or with support, however, they should still be expected to produce their final analyses and product(s) individually, so that the teacher can evaluate each student’s learning in the unit.

Final products can be either informal or more structured, written, oral, or multi-media. Options for the teacher and students can range from a narrative of their research process and explanation of their thinking, to a more formal evidence-based argument, to an oral presentation or participation in a symposium, to a multi-media presentation. Prior to beginning the unit, the teacher should decide how much time to devote to the task and what form the final product(s) should take, so that students are aware of the end goal and target throughout the unit.

Differentiation, Modifications, and Support

  • All students may not be able to independently select, research and mathematically analyze a new right from the UDHR. For students who need additional support, Internet links, data sets, and worksheets (such as those used in the unit) can be provided. Additionally, those students might take on a related right from Article 25 (e.g., the right to adequate medical care) or even use the class information related to the right to adequate nutrition and food as the basis for their own analysis and conclusions – rather than selecting a new Article, as suggested in the task description. 
  • Students who are more advanced can be encouraged to use more sophisticated statistical models and calculations to study their right, and/or to find new data sources beyond the WHO and Gapminder websites.

Assessment Task

This task description can be modified by the teacher or handed to students as written.


As a member of a United Nations research team, you have just completed a study of the current status in the world of the human right to adequate nutrition and food – as established in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In your study, you have reviewed and searched various informational sources, studied indicators and data related to child growth and adult BMI, and used statistics to analyze relationships among data.

Because of your background and expertise, the UN has contracted with you to do a similar study of the current status of another human right from one of the 30 Articles in the UDHR. The UN has asked you to determine an answer to this question: Why and how should we measure the attainment of this universal human right? Within your study, you are expected to do the following:

  1. Select an Article from the UDHR, identify a specific right it addresses, and analyze what that right means and if it might be measured using quantitative indicators and data.

  1. Explain the meaning and importance of that Article/Right, using specific textual evidence from the UDHR.

  1. Suggest ways in which the attainment of that Article/Right might be measured, and data that could be collected/analyzed to study how universally that right has been attained.

  1. Identify indicators that may have already been established (from the UN Indicators Guide, WHO databases, and/or other sources).

  1. Identify, display, and interpret relevant statistics derived from at least one of the primary sources (or a primary source you identify).

  1. Identify two variables related to the Article/Right, compare those variables mathematically, and draw supported inferences from that comparison.

  1. Explain the process by which you have researched, studied, and “measured” the Article/Right, and how you have solved mathematical problems that have arisen.

  1. Use evidence from your research and mathematical study to support conclusions about both why the attainment of this human right should be measured and how its attainment can be monitored and evaluated through the use of quantitative indicators, data, and statistical analysis.

Assessment Criteria

Your research and final report to the United Nations will be evaluated based on how well you:

  • Use strong and thorough evidence from your reading and research to explain your right and to support observations and conclusions you make. Evaluate the relevance, validity and potential uncertainty of the information and data you analyze. [CCSS Literacy Standard for Reading Informational Text 1]

  • Combine and compare information from primary source texts, websites, databases, graphic displays and other sources as the basis for your answer to the question: Why and how should we measure the attainment of this universal human right? [CCSS Literacy Standard for Reading Informational Text 7]

  • Demonstrate sound mathematical practices and thinking, including: 1) Making sense of problems and persevering in solving them; 2) Reasoning abstractly and quantitatively; 3) Using mathematical models; 4) Using appropriate data and mathematical tools. [CCSS Math Practice Standards

  • Use data, statistics, and statistical calculations correctly, including: 1) Representing data with dot plots, histograms, box plots and/or scatergrams; 2) Using appropriate statistics to analyze and compare two or more data sets; 3) Summarizing categorical data in two-way frequency tables and recognizing associations and trends in data; 4) Representing, analyzing, and explaining the relationships among data variables. [CCSS Math Content Standards for Statistics 1-7]

  • Present your information, ideas, mathematical thinking and conclusions clearly and completely.

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