They Were Born Where?


Students will identify where the presidents of the United States were born and the role of geography in determining election outcomes by creating graphs and analyzing the results of presidential elections.

Coin Type(s)

  • Dollar

Coin Program(s)

  • Presidential $1 Coins


  • Students will identify where the presidents of the United States were born and examine the role of geography in determining the outcome of presidential elections.
  • The class will create graphs representing the birth and home states of the presidents and will also analyze the results of elections for President of the United States.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Math
  • Technology


  • 9th
  • 10th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 121-150 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Pairs
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Electoral College and its role in the election process
  • President of the United States
  • Vice-president of the United States
  • Presidential elections
  • Graphing software (optional)

Terms and Concepts

  • Obverse (front)
  • Birth state vs. home state
  • Distribution
  • Candidate
  • President-elect


  • 1 overhead projector
  • 1 overhead transparency of each of the following:
    • "State Distribution" worksheet
    • "Presidents' Birth States" worksheet
    • "Presidents' Home States" worksheet
    • "They Were Born Where?" worksheet
    • "Geography's Influence" worksheet
  • Copies of the worksheets attached to this lesson plan
  • Colored pencils
  • Computer lab with Internet access
  • Texts for student research containing statistics about presidential elections. For example:
    • Hammond's Atlas of United States History
    • Geography of Presidential Elections in the United States 1868–2004 by Albert Menendez
    • The Encyclopedia of U.S. Presidential Elections edited by David Saffell
    • Presidential Elections 1789–2000 by Jerome Levin
  • Graphing software


  • Make overhead transparencies of each of the following:
    • "State Distribution" worksheet
    • "Presidents' Birth States" worksheet
    • "Presidents' Home States" worksheet
    • "They Were Born Where?" worksheet
    • "They Were Born Where?" modelling examples sheet
    • "Geography's Influence" worksheet
  • Make copies of each of the following:
    • "State Distribution" worksheet (1 per pair)
    • "Presidents' Birth States" worksheet (1 per student)
    • "Presidents' Home States" worksheet (1 per student)
    • "They Were Born Where?" worksheet (5 per pair or an amount appropriate to the class)
    • "Geography's Influence" worksheet (1 per student)
  • Bookmark Internet sites that contain information on Presidential elections.
  • Arrange to use the computer lab for sessions 2 and 3.


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Display a map of the United States that the students can see upon entering the room.
  2. Ask the students whether they think the size of the state a candidate is from influences their ability to be elected as President. Allow time for discussion.
  3. Display the transparency of the obverse of any United S t a tes presidential $1 coin. Ask the tudents to examine it and tell you what they know about this picture. The students should be able to identify this as the front of a coin and that it depicts a particular president. Tell the students that the Presidential $1 Coin Program began in 2007 to commemorate each of our nation's presidents. The program calls for four new dollar coin designs to be released per year in the order the presidents served the country. Point out to the students that each obverse in the series depicts a different president and shows the years the president served in of fice and the number of that presidency.
  4. Tell the students that many textbooks provide the state where the president was born or the state from which they ran for of f ice. Ask the students if they think that the state a president was born in or runs from af f ects that president's ability to get elected.
  5. Explain to the students the difference between the president's "birth state" and "home state."
  6. Divide the class into pairs and distribute the following to each pair:
    • "State Distribution" map
    • "Presidents' Birth States" worksheet
    • "Presidents' Home States" worksheet
    • "Geography's Influence" worksheet
    • Colored pencils
  7. Working chronologically, have the students use a colored pencil to numerically plot the United States presidents' birth states on the map. For example, write the number "1" in Virginia to represent Geor ge Washington, and the number "2" in Massachusetts to represent John Adams. The students should record all the presidents.
  8. Working chronologically, have the students use a diff erent colored pencil to numerically plot the presidents' home states on the map. For example, again write the number "1" in Virginia for George Washington, "2" in Massachusetts for John Adams. The students should notice that some of the presidents (such as Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln) ran for president from states other than the one in which they were born.
  9. Ask the students which state has the most presidential birthplaces and which state has the most presidents elected from it. Note that these statistics change when adjusted for the presidents who were never elected as president.
  10. Have the students respond to the questions on the "Geography's Influence" worksheet.
  11. Review student responses as a class.
  12. Collect the worksheets.

Session 2

  1. Bring the students to the computer lab if they are to create their graphs on the computer. As a class, review the information from Session 1.
  2. Have the students create two distribution tables. The first table should list the states in which the presidents were born and the second the states from which the presidents ran.
  3. From these tables have the students create (on computer or by hand) graphs that display the distribution of presidents according to states. The graphs can include pie, column, area, and line graphs.
  4. Have the students print out and analyze their work in pairs.
  5. Redistribute the "Geography's Influence" worksheet from Session 1.
  6. As a class, revisit and discuss the worksheet.

Session 3

Note: Decide before Session 3 how to best incorporate the modeling example.

  1. Bring the students to the computer lab. Have them work in the same pairs as in the previous session. Explain that they will analyze the birth and home states of the presidents, this time considering whether or not the candidate's state affected the election win.
  2. Distribute 5 copies of the "They Were Born Where?" worksheet to each pair.
  3. Have the students search terms on the Internet such as "United States presidential election results" or use bookmarked sites to find statistics about the elections.
  4. Assign each pair a certain number of elections so that each pair analyzes the results of at least five elections (as of 200 8, there were 5 6 presidential elections). Each pair should be assigned a chronological group of elections, with the whole class covering all the elections. For example, if you have 10 pairs of students, each pair could analyze six elections. Elections may overlap between groups.
  5. Tell each pair to look at the results of each presidential election in their group and determine whether or not the size of the president's birth or home state directly affected the election. This will involve ascertaining specifics of the Electoral College vote in each election.
  6. Allow time for the students to do their research and complete the "They Were Born Where?" worksheets.
  7. After the students have analyzed their set of elections, ask the class if they found any elections that might have been influenced by the candidates' birth or home states. Note that they will probably identify very close presidential elections in which one state's electoral votes truly made a difference. Record the student responses about the elections on an overhead transparency or on a piece of chart paper.
  8. Revisit the question about whether they think the size of the state a candidate is from influences their ability to be elected as President. Discuss this question as a class based on the completed activities.
  9. Display the following essay questions on chart paper, overhead transparency, or board and have the students write an essay that answers them:
    • Does the state a person is born in or runs from influence their ability to be elected as President?
    • Is the Electoral College system still the best way to elect a president?
  10. Collect the essays.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Have students research presidential birth and home states independently.
  • Have students work in groups of three.
  • Distribute a completed map to students.
  • Allow the use of a scribe for the essay questions.
  • Limit the amount of elections that the students research.
  • Provide extended time to complete Sessions 2 and 3.


  • Have students create a presentation or chart called "Top 10 Presidential Elections That Were Influenced by Geography."
  • Expand the mathematics exercises by having students chart other information about the presidents. For example:
    • Occupations before being elected (such as soldier, teacher, business person)
    • Number of terms served

Technology Extensions

  • Have students identify the most critical states for a presidential hopeful by visiting the Electoral College Calculator on the National Archives Web site at
  • Have students test their knowledge of the Electoral College process by searching on terms like "electoral college quiz."


  • Evaluate the accuracy of the student research on the "They Were Born Where?" worksheet and student-generated graphs.
  • Review the essay questions to evaluate whether the students met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Functions (High School)
Domain: HSF-IF Interpreting Functions
Grade(s): Grades 9– 12
Cluster: Interpret functions that arise in applications in terms of the context

  • HSF-IF.4. For a function that models a relationship between two quantities, interpret key features of graphs and tables in terms of the quantities, and sketch graphs showing key features given a verbal description of the relationship. Key features include: intercepts; intervals where the function is increasing, decreasing, positive, or negative; relative maximums and minimums; symmetries; end behavior; and periodicity.
  • HSF-IF.5. Relate the domain of a function to its graph and, where applicable, to the quantitative relationship it describes. For example, if the function h(n) gives the number of person-hours it takes to assemble n engines in a factory, then the positive integers would be an appropriate domain for the function.
  • HSF-IF.6. Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.

National Standards

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Disciplinary Standards
Cluster: Geography
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • guide learners in the use of maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
  • enable learners to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
  • assist learners to analyze the spatial information about people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface
  • help learners to understand the physical and human characteristics of places
  • assist learners in developing the concept of regions as a means to interpret Earth’s complexity
  • enable learners to understand how culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions
  • provide learners opportunities to understand and analyze the physical processes that shape Earth’s surface
  • challenge learners to consider the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth’s surface
  • guide learners in exploring the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface
  • help learners to understand and analyze the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics
  • have learners explore the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface
  • enable learners to describe the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
  • challenge learners to examine how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth’s surface; help learners see how human actions modify the physical environment
  • enable learners to analyze how physical systems affect human systems
  • challenge learners to examine the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources
  • help learners to apply geography to interpret the past and present and to plan for the future
  • enhance learners’ abilities to ask questions and to acquire, organize, and analyze geographic information so they can answer geographic questions as they engage in the study of substantive geographic content

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: All Connections
Cluster: Instructional programs from kindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Recognize and use connections among mathematical ideas
  • Understand how mathematical ideas interconnect and build on one another to produce a coherent whole
  • Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics