Running the Numbers on America’s Contribution to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

Guiding Question:

How can students use statistics to make arguments about the past?


Using statistics from the American Armies and Battlefields in Europe (Blue Book), students will evaluate the United States’ contributions to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and, ultimately, to World War I.


Historical Context

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive took place on the Western Front of World War I between September 26 and the Armistice of November 11, 1918. It was one of the largest military offensives in U.S. history with 1.2 million U.S. troops involved. By this time, both sides in the war had lost staggering numbers of soldiers and were facing financial ruin. With its entrance into the war in 1917, the United States provided much needed military and financial support for the Allies.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of statistics as a source of historical evidence;
  • Interpret statistics from the Blue Book;
  • Use statistics to describe the United States’ contribution to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and World War I; and
  • Evaluate the United States’ contributions to the war relative to other nations.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects on events in the past.
D2.His.15.9-12. Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.
D2.His.10.9-12. Detect possible limitations in various kinds of historical evidence and differing secondary interpretations.
D2.His.12.9-12. Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.

Lesson Preparation


Activity One: Anticipatory Set (15 minutes)

  • Share with students the Representations of Sacrifice Handout and the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery video.
    • Teacher Tip: The teacher may share the Representations of Sacrifice Handout as a handout or project the resources for the entire class. If students receive a handout, the teacher will have to project the video of the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.
  • Help students understand what is gained and what is lost when looking at statistics.
  • As you review the sources as a class, give each student the Representations of Sacrifice Evaluation Handout to record the strengths and weaknesses of each source.
    • Teacher Tip: Beyond the difference of scale and emotion, the statistics can also mask details that are not in the “official records” such as volunteers who were killed during the war but would not show up on military casualty lists.

Activity Two: Running the Numbers (60 minutes)

  • Have students work through the exercises in the Running the Numbers packet individually or in small groups.
  • Ask students to consider what they have learned about the United States' contribution to World War I after they have completed the Running the Numbers Packet.
    • Teacher Tip:The teacher can have students write a short response on a sticky note for an exit ticket.

Assessment Materials

Methods for Extension

  • Teachers could have students write an essay to answer the question, “What was the United States contribution to World War I?” based on the statistics provided.


  • Teachers can place students in mixed-ability groups for the Running the Numbers Packet.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources