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February 25, 2016

Lesson Plan: A Mathematical Representation of the March on Washington

This lesson uses math to help middle and high school students with intellectual disabilities to understand the significance of the March on Washington. Students will use dot stickers, paper clips, etc. to represent the number of people who attended the March. The lesson gives students the task of recreating an accurate account of attendees by using a map and views from different parts of the March.


Math, social studies, English

Estimated Time

One 45-minute class

Grade Level

Middle or high school

Warm Up Activity

Representation and Percentages

  1. As a class, count the total number of students in the room.
  2. After you have a total, then count the number of girls and boys.
  3. As a class use these two numbers to figure out what percentage of the room is female or male.
  4. On the board draw a pie chart to help them visually understand the concept so they will be able to do it again with the total numbers of attendees of the March on Washington.

Main Activity

How many people were at the March on Washington in 1963?

Pass out the following materials to students:

  • March on Washington Math Lesson Directions sheet
  • Aerial views of the March on Washington sheet
  • Map of the March on Washington
  • 30 sticker dots, paper clips, or other counting tools

1. Read the directions sheet with the students and help them to understand their task: to make a mathematical representation of the number of attendees at the March.  Once they have figured out how many people equals one sticker dot, have students use the aerial views of the March to construct a representative population on the map.

2. Help students to understand the percentage of black and white people who attended the March by using the pie chart to fill in the sections that would make the representation true.

Follow up Questions
  • Why do you think so many people came out to the March?
  • Do you think they did a good job organizing the March?

By Katie Gould, Teacher Resource Producer for PBS NewsHour Extra

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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
    • CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.A.1 Interpret products of whole numbers, e.g., interpret 5 × 7 as the total number of objects in 5 groups of 7 objects each. For example, describe a context in which a total number of objects can be expressed as 5 × 7.
    • CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.A.2 Interpret whole-number quotients of whole numbers, e.g., interpret 56 ÷ 8 as the number of objects in each share when 56 objects are partitioned equally into 8 shares, or as a number of shares when 56 objects are partitioned into equal shares of 8 objects each. For example, describe a context in which a number of shares or a number of groups can be expressed as 56 ÷ 8.
    • CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.A.3 Use multiplication and division within 100 to solve word problems in situations involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

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