National Council for Geographic Education

Ninth graders and AP® Human Geography Top Ten List

Top 10 Tips for Teaching Economic Geography to 9th Graders, 2nd Edition                                              
by Sharon Shelerud                                                                                                                     

At first, economic geography may seem daunting (and boring) to ninth graders. I found several activities and Web sites helpful in teaching the key concepts of the economic geography unit by providing background information for students while engaging them in the learning. I hope you find these ideas useful. Please send any ideas for future columns, questions, or comments to Sharon Shelerud at

1. To introduce the unit, students map two intersections in their city showing what is located where and identifying roadways (and any other mode of transportation) that are located at the intersections. In class, students share their maps and discuss why businesses are located where they are. When appropriate, talk about the various economic models covered in the unit (i.e. Hoettling, Weber, and Lotsch).

2. You have to teach the Industrial Revolution; find a short reading or a good Web Quest to do this.

3. After I have introduced and explained economic activity levels, students choose a product and then graph how it goes through the levels. (You want them to see what primary economic activities it starts with, where do the resources go to be made into the product, what stores are they sold in, how are they advertised/packed, etc.) Some students find this very easy, and some very difficult. You may want to work an example in class to check for understanding. If gaps in understanding persist, put students into pairs or teams to help teach each other work through the activity.

4. On a world and U.S. map, have students locate past major industrial centers. On the map, students list facts such as why and when they were/became a major industrial center, what affect that had on the region or country. How did/is affecting population patterns? What were/are some environmental concerns?

5. Have students chart and map present day major industrial regions. (The Rubenstein book is great for this exercise.) Students should compare the map to map of historic/past industrial regions. What patterns emerge? What are reasons for the two maps to be the same/different? Have students explain the location of current industrial regions using the demographic transition model (DTM), Wallerstein, and Rostow. These two exercises are very helpful when talking about globalization, outsourcing, and deindustrialization.

6. Find articles about China buying up minerals in Africa. Discuss the “Three T's” that Africa possesses and are essential to phone and computer manufacturing.

7. Geography of a recession (2007 – 2011). Although a few years old, the animated map in the link is an effective way to discuss spatial patterns and effects on a regional economics.
Egwuekwe, Latoya. (2011). The Decline: Geography of a Recession. Accessed on-line at on 7 February 2013.

8. Globalization WebQuest: Examination of the Developing World. A good exercise to bring in information from previous units.
Stein, Ken. (nd). Globalization WebQuest: Examination of The Developing World. Accessed on-line at on 7 February 2013.

9. What Percent Are You? On-line, socio-economic calculator. Type in yearly income and see what percent you fall in around the country. I do this for about 15 - 20 minutes, just so students begin to see the range of incomes around the United States. Then I ask them why, and a great classroom discussion begins.
White, Jeremy, Gebeloff, Robert, and Fessenden, Ford. (2012). What Percent Are You? Accessed on-line at on 7 February 2013.

10. To conclude the unit, have students make a proposal of “Where to put the next_____". ( I have mine do Target, since that is a Minnesota company.) In the proposal, students have to include both large- and small-scale maps, an aerial map (to show there is an open area with appropriate infrastructure for a business), demographic data (to show that the area can support a Target), and additional reasons why Target and the community would profit from the new store. Students LOVE the activity, and I find it is a great way for students to demonstrate their understanding of the unit.