A Mapping Lesson on Statistics and Perception

In this weekly series, OneWorld Now! Leadership Facilitator (and program alumna) Andrea Vielma breaks down what happens in an OneWorld Now! leadership workshop. Each week, students come together for an experiential workshop to explore a new topic and develop skills like critical thinking, social-emotional learning, empathy and more. Sessions are based on OneWorld Now!’s unique global leadership curriculum.

In this session, our leadership team picked up where we had left off last week; the map project.

We continued the global knowledge activity by analyzing our stereotypes and perceptions of the world. Students were divided into ten groups. Each group received a map and an assortment of colored stickers. Each sticker represented a different category:

  • Yellow for press freedom
  • Red for infant mortality
  • Blue for women representation in public office
  • Green for education expenditures (relative to each country’s state of economy)

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Students were prompted to label the top six countries with the best statistics (e.g. highest number of women in public office; lowest rate of infant mortality) in each category and then to compare their ranking with other groups.

After groups completed their group maps, we gave them black stickers to use to interact with other group’s maps. A black sticker signified that one group disagreed with a particular label on another group’s map.

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Here are the official rankings of each categories.

Population density
  1. China
  2. India
  3. United States
  4. Indonesia
  5. Brazil
  6. Pakistan
  7. Nigeria
  8. Bangladesh
  9. Russia
  10. Japan
Infant mortality rates (lowest to highest)
  1. Macau
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Sweden
  4. Finland
  5. Bermuda
  6. Norway
  7. Singapore
  8. Japan
  9. Iceland
  10. Monaco.

The United States ranked 56th for infant mortality rates.

Women in Public Office (highest to lowest)
  1. Rwanda
  2. Bolivia
  3. Cuba
  4. Seychelles
  5. Sweden
  6. Senegal
  7. Mexico
  8. South Africa
  9. Ecuador
  10. Finland

The United States ranked 75th.

Press Freedom
  1. Finland
  2. Norway
  3. Denmark
  4. Netherlands
  5. Sweden
  6. New Zealand
  7. Austria
  8. Canada
  9. Jamaica
  10. Estonia.

The United States ranked 49th for press freedom. This index reflects “the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term”.

Education Expenditures

This index compares the budget on education as a percent of each country’s GDP. From biggest spenders downward, here’s the list:

  1. Lesotho
  2. Cuba
  3. Marshall Islands
  4. Kiribati
  5. Botswana
  6. Sao Tome and Principe
  7. Timor-Leste
  8. Denmark
  9. Namibia
  10. Moldova.

The United States ranked 63rd.

As always, we asked the students three questions, reflecting on the map exercise:

  1. What surprised you?
  2. What do you notice?
  3. Why did we do this activity? 

“I was surprised by the number of women representatives in Africa, I had not expected such high numbers.” – Nicky

“There were a lot of countries listed that I’ve never heard of before.” – Anonymous Student

“That’s because the US has this perception of Africa as underdeveloped and third world, and we’re such a big country that we don’t pay attention to the smaller ones.” – Warda & Iman


“The US likes to paint itself as the greatest country, but we barely ranked top 10 or 20 in the categories assigned.” – Sofia

Side note: Where does the United States rank near the top? For starters, we have one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. The United States also pours a lot of our budget into military expenditures, ranking #1 worldwide.

So, what’s the point?

“To be aware of countries that are less significant in the media.” – Zion.

“Wow, I don’t know anything, but I thought I did. I need to question what I’m learning in school” – Sofia

“War always goes in the media, but we never hear about  stuff like education budgets.” -Osman.

“It’s humbly accepting that the world is bigger than you — and not being defeated by this fact but using this as a fuel to drive you towards learning more.” – Cody