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Memorial Day: Graphing Our History of Sacrifice

Return to Remembering Those Who Gave Their Lives: Lessons for Memorial Day



  • Arts & Humanities:
    Visual Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Mathematics:
    Applied Math
  • Mathematics:
  • Social Studies:
    -U.S. History
  • Social Studies:


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Using an online graphing tool to graph America's history of war dead helps students understand the significance of Memorial Day.


Students will
  • study data related to the number of Americans who have lost their lives in wars and conflicts.
  • create a graph to illustrate that data.
  • understand the significance of Memorial Day as a day for remembering those who gave their lives so we might live in freedom.


Memorial Day, veterans, soldiers, Veterans Day, killed in action, killed, sacrifice, graph, graphing, software, bar graph, pie graph, statistics, data

Materials Needed

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students use an Internet-based tool (provided) or graphing software to create graphs showing our nation's "history of sacrifice." The graphs serve as visual reminders of those who fought for our country so we might enjoy the freedom we have today, and of the reasons we pause each year on Memorial Day to remember those who gave their lives.

Give students access to (or printouts from) America's Wars: U.S. Casualties and Veterans.

Have students look over the lists. Talk about the number of conflicts from the American Revolution to Operation Iraqi Freedom. In how many of those conflicts have more than 10,000 American lives been sacrificed? In how many of those conflicts have more than 100,000 American lives been lost?

In order for students to see clearly the number of people whose lives we remember on Memorial Day, have them create a graph in which they illustrate all the conflicts in which 10,000 or more lives were lost. Students might create the graphs using art supplies. Since the numbers of casualties are so large for some wars, older students will be able to do this much more easily than younger students; younger students might round off all numbers to the nearest thousand since unrounded numbers will have little meaning to them anyway. The best way to illustrate the graphs, however, is to use graphing software such as

  • your school's favorite choice of graphing software or
  • Create a Graph, a free online tool. This cool tool offers you four graphing options; for this lesson, the bar graph or pie graph tools are best. See the sample graph above; it was created using the Create a Graph tool.

    Note: Because of the large numbers that were graphed, we unchecked the 3D Graph option on the Create a Graph tool; we ended up with flat bars instead of three-dimensional bars, which made the numbers much easier to read on the final graph.


Students use their graphs to complete a quiz that includes the five questions below. (Note: Questions and answers might be adjusted for younger quiz takers or if rounded numbers are used on the graph.)
  • How many Americans were killed in the Vietnam War? (90,220)
  • Were more American lives sacrificed in the Civil War or in World War II? (the Civil War)
  • In which war did almost 117,000 Americans lose their lives? (World War I)
  • How many more lives were lost in the Vietnam War than were lost in the Korean War? (35,974 lives)
  • In how many wars on the chart did 100,000 or more Americans die? (three wars)

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

Find more Memorial Day activity ideas in Education World's Memorial Day Archive.

Click to return to this week's Lesson Planning article, Remembering Those Who Gave Their Lives: Lessons for Memorial Day.


Last updated 05/16/2017