Measuring Human Rights: High School Mathematics Unit

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Navigate a complex Internet-based informational source such as the WHO website.
  • Understand the relationship of an organization such as WHO to the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the monitoring of rights through statistical indicators.
  • Locate, interpret, and evaluate information presented in text, chart, and graph form on the WHO website.
  • Use information from the WHO website to study and continue to formulate a response to the unit’s essential question.

Standards Addressed


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.

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

Pre-assessment for the Lesson

As students arrive in class, project (again) for them the “About Who” homepage from the World Health Organization’s website. Ask them to write informally in response to these questions: What have you learned “about WHO” from your initial exploration of the organization’s website? How might the website be valuable in studying the attainment of human rights, and particularly the right to adequate food found in Article 25?

After students have finished writing, ask them to share and discuss what they have learned about WHO, first in pairs or small groups, and then for the whole class.

Explain to them that the website will be a key source for them as they study the measurement of human rights, and that they will be returning to it to analyze charts and graphs in the upcoming math lessons.

Close Reading of Web Text

Students will begin a closer exploration of the WHO website – and work on close reading skills with web-based text – by reading and analyzing the information that defines the WHO indicator for child nutrition, the percentage of children under five years of age who are underweight. [Note: This indicator will be studied extensively in Math Lessons 5-7.]

If computers/tablets are available, have students navigate to the “Browse Indicators” page of the site, then to “Browse by Topic,” and “Browse by Risk Factors.” Have students scroll through the alpha-organized list of risk factor indicators to find “Children aged <5 years underweight (%)” and follow this link to the definition/explanation of the indicator at:

Note: Having students work through the layers of the website to locate information about this indicator will help prepare them for an independent search they may undertake in the culminating performance assessment. Alternatively, either have them go directly to the page or provide them with a print copy of the page’s text.

Provide an overview the of how the  information on the definition webpage is organized, and highlight how it moves from the Indicator Name, to a Definition, to notes about a Method of Measurement, to Expected Frequency of Data Collection, to a concluding Comments section.

Assign student teams to read and interpret key informational sections from the webpage (possibly assigning more difficult sections to more able readers). When teams are finished, conduct a class discussion in which you list what you have learned about WHO’s definition and measurement of this indicator of child growth.

Using the class list as a reference, have students do a short, informal piece of writing in response to the question: Why and how might this WHO indicator be used to help measure the attainment of the universal human right to adequate food?

Close Reading of Web Text and Exploration of Informational Links

This WHO webpage [] presents a brief overview of the standards and is a jumping off point to links for related information in many different forms (text, charts, graphs, videos, other sources). Based on the accessibility of computers/tablets and the direction of classroom study, the teacher can have students navigate to and/or reproduce any of the following informational sources to study further:

The WHO Multicenter Growth Reference Study (MGRS) 

MGRS – A Growth Curve for the 21st Century video (accessed for streaming or download through link on MGRS page)

Basic Guidelines for Child Growth Standards 

WHO Weight-for-age Growth Standards (and links for data presented in a variety of formats)

A variety of linked publications related to child growth.

Students can be directed to access and study one or all of these links, individually, in groups, or as a class. For each possible link to be 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 information is presented through this link/webpage?
    3. What is the source for the information/data presented through this link/webpage?
    4. What do you learn about child growth, WHO standards, the MRGS, etc. from reading and interpreting this link/webpage?
    5. How is the information applicable to measuring the human right to adequate food?

After completing their web research, students can report out what they have learned, either through an informal sharing or a more planned overview of the link/webpage. Conclude the lesson by previewing how WHO data will be used in upcoming Math lessons, and by returning to an ongoing discussion of the unit’s essential question. Have students return to the two questions that organized their initial writing exercise and add any additional thoughts they have about WHO and the use of WHO information in the measurement of human rights.


Students’ three informal writing exercises, written or oral responses to guiding questions, worksheets, and discussions can be reviewed to determine how skillfully they can navigate informational websites, locate and interpret web-based information, and relate that information to the measurement of human rights. Since they will need to be able to use these skills independently in the culminating performance assessment, additional instruction or support may be necessary for some or all students.

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