Get the Picture?

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, December 3, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s exhibition Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for the 90% of the world’s population that have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted. In this lesson, students will learn about some of the innovations included in the exhibit and create a graph to visually represent information they’ve gathered.

National Standards

Common Core Literacy for Other Subjects
Grades 6-8
Common Core Mathematics 6-8
Grade 7
Language Arts - Writing
Language Arts - Speaking and Listening


Students will:
  • learn about the advantages of presenting information visually
  • learn about and discuss the benefits of new and productive innovations
  • examine, evaluate, and analyze the elements of graph design
  • conduct internet research to gather data
  • design a graph with group members
  • draw conclusions based on information presented in the graph
  • create a class presentation



Computer with internet access


Building Background Activity One: Representing Data Visually
The purpose of this activity is to review the concept of graphs as a means of visually presenting data.
1. Have the students visit the following website for a review of the advantages of using a graph to represent data visually: 2. Ask the students to brainstorm the meaning of the phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words."
Activity Two: Design for the Other 90%
The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to the design concepts of the Cooper-Hewitt Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
  1. As a class, visit Cooper-Hewitt’s “Design for the Other 90%” website:
  2. Divide the class into small groups. Allow the students ten to fifteen minutes to explore the website. Ask each group to select one design innovation, and answer the following questions:
  • What does the innovation do?
  • What issue does this innovation address?
  • Do you think this is an important innovation? Why or why not?
  • Who created it?
Allow each group to share its innovation with the entire class.
Steps for Learning Activity One: Graphing Data
The purpose of this activity is for students to collect data and create a graph to visually represent this data.
  1. Tell the students that they have learned about presenting data visually and about the innovations presented on the Design for the Other 90% website. Their task is now to create a presentation that visually displays information they’ve gathered from the Design for the Other 90% website.
  2. Divide the students into groups and give each group a copy of the “Get the Picture?” handout. Review the steps with the groups. If they have trouble identifying information to use for the graph, present one or more of the following ideas as examples:
  • Number of innovations per continent
  • Number of innovations developed per year
  • Number of innovations per country in Africa
  • Number of continents using the innovation. (Divide continents into countries to make the graph more challenging.)
  • Location of the company that designed the innovation by number of innovation
Activity Two: Presentations
The purpose of this activity is to allow students to present their design, receive feedback, and discuss design issues.
1. Since the purpose of the lesson is to see how visually representing data allows for ease of interpretation, have each group present its graphs to the class in the following manner:
  • Display the graph.
  • Read the title and the labels on each axis aloud.
  • Based only on this information, ask the students in the class to draw their conclusion(s).
  • Read the paragraph explaining the graph.
2. Discuss the accuracy of the students’ conclusions. Use the following questions as a guide:
  • Were they able to draw a conclusion based on the limited information given?
  • Was it the same conclusion as the one reached by the group?
  • If the students in the class drew a different conclusion, was it reasonable based on the information in the graph?
  • If the group had presented the information in a chart, would it have been as effective?
Discuss the presentation of the material. Use the following questions as guidelines:
  • Did the graph appropriately represent the data?
  • Was there anything about the design of the graph that stood out?
  • Was the graph visually appealing?
Evaluating Conclusions
Although the students reached conclusions based on the information on the graphs, the reasons behind those conclusions are not always evident. For example, students may have concluded that the majority of the innovations are created in the United States, but the visual representation gives no reasons as to why this is so. Ask the students to conduct further research into the reasons behind the data and write a paragraph explaining what they found.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their work. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.
  • Rate how well you understood the concept behind presenting information visually.
  • Rate how well you understood the concept behind the innovations on the Design for the Other 90% website.
  • Rate the quality of the information your group chose to include on the graph.
  • Rate the accuracy of your data collection.
  • Rate the visual appeal of your graph.
  • Rate the validity of the conclusion(s) you reached based on the information presented in the graph.
  • Rate the quality of the paragraph explaining the data presented in the graph.
  • Rate the quality of your group’s presentation.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School:

Younger students can conduct in-class research by surveying their classmates and present their findings in simple bar graphs with the help of a teacher. Some examples of research questions for the class might be:
  • What is your favorite fruit?
  • What is your favorite breakfast food?
  • Where were you born?
  • What do you want to do when your grow up?

Differentiation for High School:

After completing this exercise, older students can continue to conduct research and present their findings to the class using graphs. Students can learn to create charts on Excel and experiment with different options to decide which type of graph is most visually effective for each set of data. Some examples of research questions might be:
  • Where (countries, continents) do the 90% represented in this exhibition reside?
  • What percentage of these countries' populations are in the 90%?
  • What is the number and percentage of children who are included in the 90%?

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