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Gold Rush California and Its Diverse Population

Subjects

• Algebra
• Statistics
• History

• 6-8
• 9-12

Brief Description

Compare the immigrant population of California today and at the start of the Gold Rush in the 1850s. (The percents are remarkably similar -- as is the hatred often shown to immigrants.)

Objectives

Students will
• analyze the divergent paths of the American people in the West from 1800 to the mid-1800s and the challenges they faced.
• apply algebraic techniques to solve percent mixture problems.
• use data samples of a population and describe the characteristics and limitations of the samples.
• utilize mathematics (specifically ratios, percentages, and graphing) to analyze aspects of California's Gold Rush population and diversity, and observe the differences and similarities between California's population during the Gold Rush and today.

Keywords

percent, percentage, Gold Rush, California, immigrant, Latino, Asian, Chinese, Hispanic, Mexican

Materials Needed

• overhead projector and transparencies (optional)
• calculators (optional)
• pencils
• rulers
• colored pencils, markers, or crayons

The Lesson

In this lesson, students compare the California of today with California during the time of the Gold Rush. Is California more diverse today than it was then? The answer might be surprising. For students in grades 5 and up, this lesson also can be used to teach percent.

Before students enter the classroom, write the following question on a chalkboard, chart, or overhead transparency:

Do you think California is more or less diverse today than it was during the 1850s Gold Rush?
Guide a short discussion in which students answer the question with information from their own experience or knowledge.

If you teach upper elementary students or above, use the overhead projector or a chalkboard for the purpose of reviewing the process of figuring percentages; have students try several sample problems.

Next, provide on a chalkboard, chart, or transparency the statistics concerning the make-up of California's population at the time of the 1850s Gold Rush (See below.) Have older students figure the percents.

CALIFORNIA POPULATION (circa 1852)
 GROUP POPULATION Mexicans/South Americans 53,000 Chinese 25,000 Native Americans 24,000 Africans 3,000 Anglo-Americans/Europeans 155,000 TOTAL 260,000

Ask students if they see any information they could use to figure out how diverse California was at the time of the Gold Rush. Arrange students into small groups (2 to 4 students to a group). Give them time to figure out what percent of the population each group of people represented and to create a bar graph illustrating the breakdown of the population. As students figure the percents, circulate throughout the classroom to offer assistance. The percents (rounded off) are as follows:

 GROUP PERCENT OF POPULATION Mexicans/South Americans 20% Chinese 10% Native Americans 9% Africans 1% Anglo-Americans/Europeans 60%

20 percent 10 percent 9 percent 1 percent 60 percent

Initiate a discussion about factors that might be affected by this population diversity and whether or not those factors might be good for the state. Ask: Do you think a diverse population helps improve the treatment of all people?

You might invite students to share information they know about the people who came to the state during the Gold Rush period. If students are unaware of the way members of that diverse population were treated, you might share the following Web pages; they will provide background information about the mistreatment of non-European races during that time;
Discuss with students the following question: Do you think immigrant people were treated fairly during the Gold Rush?

Next, provide the following statistics for the population of the state of California in the year 2000. Have older students figure the percents.

CALIFORNIA POPULATION (2000)
 GROUP POPULATION Latino 10,967,000 Asian 3,649,000 African-American 2,182,000 Anglo-Americans/Europeans 15,817,000 Other 1,258,000 TOTAL 33,873,000

Give students time to figure what percent of the population each group of people represented and to create a bar graph illustrating the breakdown of the population. As students figure the percents, circulate throughout the classroom to offer assistance. The percents (rounded off) are as follows:

 GROUP PERCENT OF POPULATION Latino 32% Asian 11% African-American 6% Anglo-Americans/Europeans 47% Other 4%

Talk about how much California's population has changed from the 1850s to today. After hearing students' thoughts, you might create pie charts to compare the two sets of results.

Assessment

Conclude the lesson by inviting students to summarize what they have learned. Among the findings they might mention is that diverse communities often demonstrate a high degree of intolerance for immigrants -- both in the past and in the present.

Submitted By

Roselyn Wang, University of the Pacific in Stockton, California

Education WorldÂ®