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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
A Statistical Look at Jewish History
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional Activities


Note to teachers: This lesson works best for students who have some understanding of the relationship between fractions, decimals and percentages. If your students do not have this background, preface this lesson with a lesson on how to figure out percentages. The following Web site contains lesson plans and information related to percentages, decimals, and fractions:

Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM and/or Macintosh computer running System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.

Specific Software Needed:
  • Excel (if you choose to have students create graphs using this program)

Bookmarked sites:
Students need the following supplies:
  •  Calculators
  •  Pencils
  •  Chart Paper
  •  Markers
  •  Graph paper
  •  Posterboards, 1 for each student in class (optional)

    Introductory Activity:
    Using census numbers and various charts, students will be able to look at trends in the population of Jewish people in the last century and today. But, before looking at numbers that will be in the hundreds of thousands and millions, teachers should review the concept of percentages:

  • Ask students to guess what the word "percent" means. Suggest that they break the word up into parts: what does "per" mean? "Cent"? Tell them "percent" means "out of 100" or "of one 100." So, 3% means 3 out of every hundred.

  • Ask students to brainstorm places they've seen percentages used outside of the math room, e.g., 2% milk, newspapers... Then ask them: What information does a percentage provide that a number doesn't and vice versa? Ask them to compare the following two statements:
    Statement one: There are five girls in the class.

    Statement two: Five percent of the class is girls.
    What information does the first statement provide? The second? What does the first provide that the second doesn't? What does the second provide that the first doesn't? When might it be more useful to describe something using a percentage? A number amount?

  • Tell students that now that they've reviewed the concept of percentages, they will review calculating percentages. Ask your students to estimate the percentage of boys in the class. Girls? Ask them how they came up with their estimates.

  • Then, ask students to determine the exact percentages and have them explain how they came up with these numbers. Record their responses on the board. Ask students what information they need to determine a percentage (the part and the whole) and then ask for the formula to calculate a percentage.

  • Next, ask students to identify the percentage of time they spend doing the following:
    • being at school
    • doing homework
    • working at a job
    • spending time with friends
    • talking/spending time with their parents
    • watching television
    • sleeping
    [Note: You may want to model how to perform these calculations, e.g., if a student spends eight hours of his day sleeping, then he spends 8/24 hours per day sleeping, which is 33.3% of his time.]

  • Break students into groups of four or five to discuss their percentages. Have group members compare their figures with one another. What patterns do they see among their group members' statistics? What stories do these numbers tell about how the students spend their lives? What questions do the students have that these statistics cannot answer?

  • Ask students to reconvene as a group. Have them share the patterns they saw and questions the statistics cannot answer. Encourage students to understand that while statistics can point out patterns and trends, they cannot answer questions about why these patterns exist.

  • Tell students that in the upcoming activities they will use percentages to study Jewish population statistics and learn about the history of the Jewish people.

    Learning Activities:

    Activity One: Figuring out where the world's Jewish population currently lives
    Before you begin this activity, make sure you print out Student Organizer-Activity One and make a copy for each of your students. This activity will give students practice in locating information on the Internet and calculating percentages using raw data.

  • Ask students to think back to the Introductory Activity. Ask them to review what they learned about percentages, e.g., what "percentage" means, how to calculate a percentage, what information a percentage offers versus a flat amount, and the strengths and shortcomings of percentages when looking at the way they spent their time. (Helps them spot patterns and trends, but doesn't answer why they exist.) Record their responses on a piece of chart paper.

  • Now, write the following two phrases on the board:
    • Percentage of total Jewish population worldwide living in that country

    • Percentage of Jewish population within a country
    Ask students what the difference between these two percentages is. Then, ask them what information they will need to determine the first percentage. The second? Write their responses on the board.

  • Give each student a copy of Student Organizer-Activity One. Go over the directions with students:

    Below you will find the name of a country and the number of Jews living in that country. There are a total of 13 million Jews worldwide. Using this number and the figures below, determine what percentage of the total Jewish population lives in that country. Note: There are many other countries that serve as home to Jews. However, their numbers are too small for our purposes.

    Find the total population of each country listed. Use the Internet for help. (The Web site is very helpful.) Calculate what percentage of each country's population is Jewish.

  • Complete the first country with the students. Ask them to tell you how to proceed and then model the method on the board.

  • Then, break students into pairs and ask them to complete the handouts.

  • After students are done, begin a discussion about the findings. Ask students to analyze their data. What patterns do they see? Do they see any exceptions to these patterns? What questions does their data raise? Record students' questions on the board. If students have trouble generating questions, you may want to offer one of the following to jumpstart the discussion:
    • Where is the greatest concentration of Jews in the world? Why?

    • Why do you think the United States is home to the greatest number of Jews in the world?

    • What other percentages might be interesting to calculate, e.g., percentage of Jews living in North America, South America, Europe...?

    Answer Key for Activity One:

    Country Number of Jews living in country % of total Jewish population worldwide living in that country Total population of country listed Percentage of Jewish population in that country
    United States 5,800,000 44.6% 276,768,280 2%
    Israel 4,847,000 37.3% 6,188,054 78%
    France 600,000 4.6% 58,978,172 1%
    Russia 550,000 4.2% 147,463,480 0.3%
    Ukraine 400,000 3% 49,811,174 0.8%
    Canada 360,000 2.7% 31,006,347 1.1%
    United Kingdom 300,000 2.3% 58,795,119 0.5%
    Argentina 250,000 1.9% 36,737,664 0.7%
    Brazil 130,000 1% 171,853,126 0.07%
    South Africa 106,000 0.8% 43,426,386 0.2%
    Australia 100,000 0.7% 18,783,551 0.5%
    Hungary 80,000 0.6% 10,065,420 0.8%
    Belarus 60,000 0.5% 10,401,784 0.5%
    Germany 60,000 0.5% 82,584,731 0.07%

    Please note: This table was last updated in December, 2001.

    Activity Two: Looking at the numbers of Jews in the last century
    In this activity, students will examine the numbers of the world Jewish population in the last century. Using these numbers and Microsoft Excel, they will create a clear and coherent graph. More importantly, they will begin to see how numbers and history correspond with each other. Before starting, give each student a copy of Student Organizer-Activity Two and a piece of graph paper.

  • Break students into small groups (2-4 students).

  • Ask students to look at their Student Organizer-Activity Two printout.

  • Using the information from their printout, they should create a graph that displays the data on their chart, ideally using the Excel program if it is available. Before they begin graphing ask them: What are the two categories of information they will be charting? (population and time). Which category will they use for the x-axis and which for the y-axis? (There is no right answer. When the students are done, ask them to compare the graphs with time as an x-axis with the graphs using population as the x-axis.)

  • After graphing, students will use the same data to determine the percentage increase or decrease for each of the years listed. To do so, the teacher may have to give a refresher about how to do this calculation. As students work, encourage them to first anticipate whether a change will be an increase or decrease, and then calculate the actual percentage. If their original guesses don't match their answer, ask them to revisit their calculations-tell them this is an easy way to check their work.
    For example, to calculate the percentage increase from 1900 to 1914, you must calculate (13,500,000/11,000,000 - 1) x 100% = 22.73%.
    To calculate the percentage decrease from 1939 to 1948, you apply the same formula. (11,500,000/16,728,000 -1) x 100% = 31.25%
    Answer Key for Activity Two:

    Percentage difference from year A to B Difference
    1900 to 1914 22.73% increase
    1914 to 1939 23.91% increase
    1939 to 1948 31.25% decrease
    1948 to 1969 19.88% increase
    1969 to 2000 4.31% decrease
  • Once the students are done with the mathematical portion of the lesson, ask them to analyze their data. Ask them to write down a list of questions that these statistics raise.

  • Ask students to research the questions they generated. Suggest the following sites:
  • After the students have researched their questions, bring them together as a group to share their questions and research as a class. The following are questions you might want to cover if the students do not bring them up on their own.
    • Why is there such a severe drop in the world's Jewish population from 1939 to 1948? What period of history accounts for this?
    • Why the decrease between 1969 and 2000? What was going on in the world? What was happening with the world population as a whole?
    • What do you predict about the world's Jewish population for 2030? Explain your theories. (For this question, ask students to look at their graphs and identify and general trends, e.g., the population is generally going up, down, etc., and base their predictions on these trends.)

  • Ask students to reflect and comment on how the population statistics helped them formulate questions and guided their research.

  • Ask students to brainstorm theories about the future of the world's Jewish population, based on history and population trends thus far.

    Activity Three: Cities with the Largest Jewish Population in the Diaspora
    In this activity, students will be given a listing of the cities with the largest Jewish population in the Diaspora. They will use this information to determine the percentage of Jews in the city and then research individual cities and their possible appeal to the Jewish community. Before starting, give each student a copy of Student Organizer-Activity Three.

  • Divide class into small groups of 2 to 4.

  • Ask them to use or whatever resource you would like to find the population of each of the cities listed on Student Organizer-Activity Three.

  • Then tell them to calculate the percentage of the city's population that is composed of people who identify themselves as Jewish.

  • Once students have completed the mathematical portion of this exercise, have them consider the following questions. Record student responses on the board or a piece of chart paper. Encourage students to share other questions the statistics raised.
    1. What similarities exist in these cities that make them attractive for large numbers of Jewish people? Think about geography, ideology, politics, etc.

    2. What types of services and centers exist in these cities that cater to the needs of Jews? For this question, pick one city and use the Internet to search for businesses, industries and community centers that target Jews. For example, are there Jewish neighborhoods?

  • Ask each group to choose another city to research on the Internet. Then have each group present their ideas about why the city they researched might attract a significant Jewish population.

    Answer Key for Activity Three:

    City Jewish population of the city Total population of city Percentage of Jews in the city
    New York, USA 1,750,000 7,392,064 24%
    Miami, USA (metropolitan area) 535,000 4,000,000* 13%
    Los Angeles, USA 490,000 3,593,823 14%
    Paris, France 350,000 2,077,537 17%
    Philadelphia, USA 254,000 1,434,587 18%
    Chicago, USA 248,000 2,706,882 9%
    San Francisco, USA 210,000 746,277 28%
    Boston, USA (metropolitan area) 208,000 5,828,000* 4%
    London, UK 200,000 7,169,443 2.7%
    Moscow, Russia 200,000 8,345,471 2%
    Buenos Aires, Argentina 180,000 14,392,081 1.3%
    Toronto, Canada 175,000 2,400,000** 7%
    Washington, DC, USA 165,000 510,478 32%
    Kiev, Ukraine 110,000 2,609,998 4%
    Montreal, Canada 100,000 999,243 10%
    St. Petersburg, Russia 100,000 4,750,000* 2%
    Source: World Jewish Congress (WJC), Lerner Publications Company, 1998. City population sources:
    ** These population figures were not from Students should use alternate sources.
    * The number from did not seem correct, so alternate sources were used to get this number.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:

    Option 1:
    For the culminating activity, students will need to evaluate the population of their own ethnicity. As part of their project, they will have to do the following:
    • research population figures of people of their own ethnicity worldwide
    • find the percentage of their ethnicity in the United States
    • create pie graphs as a visual representation of the figures that they have found
    • using information from the 2000 U.S. Census, make predictions about the future
  • The students will discuss their heritage and ethnicity and determine which subgroup they want to be a part of.

  • Each student will need to create a presentation that includes, but is not limited to, the following information: (Note: Encourage students to use Excel when charting their information.)
    • the total number of people in their ethnicity/race worldwide
    • the total number of people in their ethnicity/race in the United States
    • the percentage of the U.S. population their group makes up
    • where the biggest numbers of people in their ethnic group are located and why they think this is so
    • other trends they notice about their racial or ethnic group, e.g., they can trace their groups population over time, and graph it as they did in the previous activity
    • predictions about the demographics of their racial or ethnic group in the future

  • Students should display their work on posterboards or pieces of chart paper, and then have a fair where they display their findings for their class. To do this, break the class into two groups. First, group one displays and group two reads the posterboards and asks questions of the presenters. Then the groups switch roles.

    Option 2:
    If there are too many students doing the same racial or ethnic groups, you may want to have some students do a school-wide survey and investigation. After they have collected their data, they should compare the school figures to the national percentages of the 2000 U.S. Census.

    Note: Because this is a complex group activity, students should first create a list of what needs to be done and who will be doing what.

  • Find rosters of each class in the school.

  • The students should come up with a list of racial and ethnic groups that would encompass all of the students in the school.

  • Have the students schedule times with each teacher so they can go to the classrooms and take a quick poll. Students should keep good records of which classrooms have been visited so they do not bother classes twice and obtain repeat numbers.

  • Students may need to spend a few days gathering all of the data.

  • Once all of the data has been gathered, students will compile all of the numbers and start figuring out the percentages for each group.

  • Students will need to obtain the national percentages from the 2000 U.S. Census and then compare their school's figures. Ask students to put this information into tables and graphs. Suggestions:
    • Students could create two pie charts, one showing the make up of the U.S. population and another showing their own schools population.
    • Students could create a color-coded bar graph, with red bars representing their school and blue representing the U.S., with the y-axis representing % of the population and the x-axis containing the names of racial/ethnic groups.

  • Ask students to explain the reasons behind the differences and similarities between their school's demographics and those of the U.S. as a whole.

  • All of this information should be reported in a visual presentation to the rest of the class. Some ideas include using PowerPoint or a bulletin board in the hallway so the rest of the school can see the results.


    Cross-Curricular Extensions:
    • History: Read historical fiction related to the Jewish Diaspora or students' own backgrounds to complement their understanding of the immigrant experience.
    • Population trends: Demographers have predicted that the "white" population will not be the majority population in the next few decades. Have debates about what this will mean for the future of each of these groups.

    Community Connections:
    • Students can interview family members to document their stories about living in the United States and the issues, conflicts and challenges that they faced when they first arrived in the country. Video, audio and text clips can be included in their presentations.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students