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Marian Starkey


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Social Studies, Biology, Civics, History, Mathematics, Health

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Microsoft Excel

8 Billion and Growing: World Population Milestones Throughout History

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  • This article describes historical human population levels, how our population has changed over time, why these changes occurred, and what the future of human population looks like for the near future.
  • It highlights the exponential growth that occurred after major biological discoveries drastically lowered the death rate of children and that supporting the rights of women to plan their pregnancies is a needed solution worldwide.

Teaching Tips


  • This resource provides a connection between the size of a population and the agricultural, biological, and industrial impacts of supporting that population.
  • Each graph includes a description of the data and an explanation of why certain changes in population growth have occurred.
  • The downloadable data from the UN provides a vast amount of information that can be used for a variety of investigations, graphing exercises, or statistical analyses.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Before reading the article, students should be familiar with terms like death rates, birth rates, fertility rates, less developed countries, and consumption levels.
  • You may want to have students watch this video animation of human population through time before reading the article.


  • This resource can be used in math classes during lessons about interpreting graphs, trend lines, determining slope, and linear, exponential, and logarithmic functions.
  • Social studies classes can use this article for lessons about demographics, human rights, gender equity, women's empowerment, access to education and resources, or cultural differences.
  • For additional context, have students watch this video about how empowering women helps fight climate change, this animated video to learn more about the history of population growth and demographic transitions, or this video that connects human population growth to climate change. Alternatively, students can go through this interactive course about how we have changed the planet over the last 250 years and how population is connected to those changes.
  • To extend the lesson, try integrating this activity to help build empathy and awareness.
Scientist Notes
The resource shows estimated and projected global population for the recent past, present, and future. Biodiversity, natural resources, the environment, and development are all under pressure from population growth. This document is crucial to understanding how human interactions over time affect population shifts. It is suggested that teachers use this resource because it is an essential reference tool.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-3 Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • HS-LS2-1 Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.
      • HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
      • HS-LS2-6 Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.3.9-12 Use geographic data to analyze variations in the spatial patterns of cultural and environmental characteristics at multiple scales.
      • D2.Geo.7.9-12 Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas, technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Statistics & Probability: Making Inferences & Justifying Conclusions (9-12)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSS.IC.B.6 Evaluate reports based on data.
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