Animals by the Numbers

What You Need


  • Classroom copies of Animals by the Numbers
  • Dictionary
Animals by the Numbers


To explore how infographics and various graphical representations can be used to portray the differences and similarities between and among animal species.


This lesson uses the book Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics by Steve Jenkins. This book was one of the winners of the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science BooksSB&F, Science Books & Films, is a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Animals by the Numbers is a colorful, graph-heavy book focusing on various vertebrate and invertebrate animal groups. The book is full of animal comparisons, including: biomass, sound intensity, life spans, heart rate, etc. The author uses visual illustrations to communicate to the reader. It is an easy read, but packed full of information. Students learn that science is mutable in both the understanding of what we know and the ways in which scientists display data. On a grand scale, students discover that there is a wonderful and complicated world beyond the human race.

This lesson plan focuses on foundational knowledge of the animal kingdom and students will learn about the variety in this group. Students will learn about different types of data and the many ways it can be displayed. They will work individually and in groups to complete assignments.

Students may take the facts presented in the book as just interesting information, but what should be a goal is to challenge the students to think about the “why”. Meaning, "Why is it that certain animals live longer than others?" or "Why do animals have certain appendages?" This is very important for the analysis of new and old information. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 7.)

Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in these Common Core State Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.7  Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation

Planning Ahead

If possible, have classroom copies of Animals by the Numbers on hand.

You should read Animals by the Numbers before starting the lesson with students to familiarize yourself with the information in it and how the author uses the graphics to convey that information.

It is suggested that you look over Presenting Numerical Data and/or Vernal Pool Data Analysis Lesson Plan: Choose the Appropriate Graph for background information about how to present data visually.

For help with the Assesment, you can consult How to Make Infographics with Students and Infographics as a Creative Assesment.

If your students are not familiar with creating and analyzing graphs, you should do a lesson like What’s in a Graph? to help them learn these important skills.


To begin this lesson and encourage student engagement, give students a brief overview of Animals by the Numbers by outlining these points:

  • Importance of quantitative data in our understanding of the world around us
  • Amazing qualities of animals
  • How the book illustrates the differences (and similarities) in the animal kingdom
  • How the book portrays different ways in which to present data

Next, hand out the books to students and give the students a few minutes to flip through the book. Then, hand out the Animals by the Numbers student sheet. On this sheet, students should define some of the words that appear in the book. Ask the students if they know what these words mean. For any words that they don't know, ask for volunteers to look up the answers in a dictionary (either online or a hard copy). You can find definitions for the terms on the Animals by the Numbers teacher sheet.


For this part of the lesson, students should read Animals by the Numbers. If you have enough copies of the book for each student, you could assign the reading as homework. You could allow students from three days to a week to complete the reading and questions. Otherwise, you could provide enough class time for students to read the book in pairs or as groups. As students read the book, they should answer the questions on the Animals by the Numbers student sheet. You can find answers to the questions on the teacher sheet. You should have a class discussion to go over the questions and check for understanding.

Once students have read the book, involve them in a graphing exercise demonstration for a class period. In this demonstration, you should survey your students and use that data to produce multiple graphing styles (bar, pie chart, line, scatter plot, etc.).

Here are some examples of what you can ask your students:

  • What are your favorite pizza toppings?
    • (Perhaps give students the options of pepperoni, extra cheese, sausage, green peppers, pineapple.)
  • What is your favorite sport?
  • When do you usually wake up?
  • What is your favorite dessert?
    • (Students can choose from: cookies, ice cream, pie, cake/cupcakes, candy [chocolate, hard candy], or not much of a sweet tooth.)

Graphs can be created in Excel or you can use this online Data Grapher. You can then project the graphs on a screen. Ask students questions to find out if they can tell you the important parts of a graph. Ask them:

  • What is the title of the graph?
  • What is the independent variable on the graph?
  • What is the dependent variable?
  • What kind of data does the graph represent?

For this next activity, students will get some practice finding information by gathering facts from the book for a class period. They should use the Animals by the Numbers Data Activity student sheet to help them gather the data. Once students have finished doing this activity, you should go over the results of their information gathering with them. Ask some follow up questions about the data:

  • What was the most interesting thing you learned about animals?
  • What was the least interesting thing you learned?
  • Was it hard for you to find the information?
  • Did the graphics in the book help to show the information in a clear and interesting manner?
  • Can you think of other ways to show the information?

(Answers will probably vary but encourage your students to provide explanations for their answers.)

Now students can create their own graphs using some of the information that they learned from Animals by the Numbers. Break the students into groups. Provide students with the Animals by the Numbers Graphing Activity student sheet. For this activity, they should use the information about "Sleeping" for each of the animals listed.

Write the numbers 1-24 (hours) on the blackboard, Smartboard, or chart paper. Leave space next to or under each number (leave more space under 6-10 hours). Working as a class, ask your students where each animal belongs and place them under the appropriate number (if the sleep time is not a whole number, indicate that on the board). Now ask the students to come up and write their names under the number indicating the average hours of sleep they get each night.

With this data, students should create their own graphs. Give students 30 minutes to produce a graph using Excel or the online Data Grapher. You should expect the graph to look pretty similar among the groups. Once they're done with these graphs, ask students these questions:

  • What is the title of your graph?
  • What data does your graph represent?
  • Why did you choose to use a bar/pie/line graph to show your data?
  • Did the graph turn out as you expected?
  • Do you believe this was the best graph to use to represent your data? Why or why not?
  • Which type of graph do you believe best illustrated the data?

(Answers will probably vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.)


In order to assess student understanding, students should use what they have learned about graphing data to create their own infographic that illustrates two interesting facts about an animal group you assign to them. This project can take about two to three weeks for students to complete.

Animal Groups

  • Mammals (vertebrates) 121
  • Birds (vertebrates) and fish (vertebrates) 59
  • Reptiles (vertebrates) and Amphibians (vertebrates) 52
  • Arthropods except crabs and lobsters (invertebrates) 50
  • Mollusks including crabs and lobsters (invertebrates) 50

Exploration Topics

  • Size
  • Biomass
  • Speed
  • Animal leapers
  • Wingbeats
  • Sleep
  • Life spans
  • Heart rate
  • Horns
  • Tongues
  • Animal sounds
  • Defenses
  • Poisonous or venomous
  • Deadly animals
  • Deadlier
  • High and low
  • Hot and cold
  • Migration
  • Mass extinction
  • Endangered animals

This open-ended activity challenges students to work cooperatively to complete a science project. They should use various resources and make decisions about what topics to explore. Students also learn about different ways to present data.

Provide students with the Animals by the Numbers Infographic Project student sheet. Students should work in groups to gather information on their assigned animal group from the Animals by the Numbers book, other textbooks in your class or school library, and Internet resources to create a story about what they have learned. Students may need about two weeks in order to complete the research for this project.

Once students have the information they need, they should then create a rough draft or outline of the information they want to present. This can help students figure out which template to customize or create, and it can help them decide which information is actually important to their visual.

Once you are confident that your students have created an outline and have the meat of their information, it’s time to focus on how the infographic looks. Students can begin to focus on the design of their infographic. They can use online resources like EasellyCanva, and Piktochart to create their infographics. You can provide class time for students to do this work. The students' projects should include these points:

  • Identification of the main animal group.
  • Exploration of two topics. Each topic should highlight the main animal group, including comparisons to one (or two) of the remaining groups.
  • Data presented in various graphical representations (see The Top 9 Types of Infographic Templates and When to Use Them for examples of graph types).

Please note: students should not use the same data visualization method used on the exploration topics in Animals by the Numbers.

To assess the project, you can use the Infographic Rubric by Kathy Schrock. You should provide this rubric to your students as they work on creating their infographic so they know what you expect.

Students should present their projects to the class in a poster session. As students work on their presentation, you should provide them with the Infographic Oral Presentation Checklist by Martha Ramirez so they know what you will look for in their presentations.

Upon arrival, hand students tape and asked to put their infographics up on the walls of the classroom. These can be stretched out around the classroom, so the poster session dynamic could be carried out appropriately. Ask each group in turn to present their posters to their classmates. Each presenter has three minutes to speak. You can use a timer and indicate when time was up in order to keep things moving.

At the end of the presentations, students should be able to discuss what animal groups are the overall winners among the exploration topics. Additionally, you can push the students to think about the "why." For example, "Why is the heartbeat of a hummingbird so much faster than an elephant or horse?"


These Science NetLinks lessons could be used to help extend on the ideas in this lesson:

CODAP is a free online platform to visualize data.

You could lead your students through some of the activities from the Animals by the Numbers Educator Guide by Steve Jenkins to help deepen students' understanding of the concepts presented in the book and in this lesson.

Funder Info
Science NetLinks is proud to have Subaru as a funder of this project.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards