Math = Love: Math Meets Geography (Road Trip Project Revisited)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Math Meets Geography (Road Trip Project Revisited)

After EOI testing was finished, I still wanted to have my students do lots of math.  However, the end of the year brings with it lots of activities, field trips, and missing students.  So, I decided to use this opportunity to go back and fit in some activities that I didn't have time to do when I originally taught some concepts. 

I taught ratios and proportions to my Algebra 1 students very early in the year.  Looking back, I think I rushed through this topic too fast.  Next year, I will probably double the time I spend on this topic! 

During my student teaching in 8th grade, I wrote a Road Trip project for my students to complete.  The original project was 3 days long.  For my Algebra 1 students, I chose to only do Day 1 of this project. 

The task is simple.  Given a map of the United States, plan a road trip to visit 5 cities.  Using ratios and proportions, calculate the total distance traveled.  Students need a copy of the map, worksheet, and a ruler.  I wrote more about this project here.

Road Trip Project

Since I had already done this project with 8th graders, I thought my Algebra 1 students would be able to whiz right through it.  I was wrong.  I had to teach many of my students how to read a ruler.  Rounding to the nearest quarter inch was a disaster.  And, the questions students asked me made me feel more like a geography teacher than a math teacher. 

These are actual conversations I had with my Algebra 1 students during this activity.

Me: Class, today we are going on a road trip.  If we're going on a road trip, that means we will be traveling on...
Class: Roads!
Me: Yes, so that means we can't travel to...
Class: Hawaii
Student 1: Why can't you drive to Hawaii? 
Me: Hawaii is an island.  That means it is surrounded by water.
Student 2: Why does Hawaii look so weird?
Custodian who just happens to be emptying the trash at this point: Hawaii is a series of small islands.
Student 3: Do you mean you can't drive between the little islands?
Custodian: No.  When I was in Hawaii, we traveled between the islands by taking ferries. 

Student 1: Is Washington, D.C. here? [The student is pointing at Washington state.]
Me: No.
Student 2: No, Washington, D.C. is in Virginia.

Student 1: I think this map is wrong.
Me: Why?
Student 1: Oklahoma City should be above Tulsa.

Student 1: Do you mean Nashville, Tennessee is in the United States?
Me: Yes.  Nashville is in the U.S.
Student 1: I've heard of it before, but I didn't realize it was in the U.S.

I required my students to write both the city and the state they were visiting on their assignment.  One student wrote that she was traveling to New Jersey, PA. 


  1. I love explaining to my 6th graders that Arizona, Texas, Florida... are not a countries. Every year:)

  2. Fun! I'm always surprised how long road trips can take because not all roads are the same (since the speed limits are different and there may be traffic).
    Kids Math Teacher

  3. I used your road trip project this year with my pre-algebra students. Thank you for sharing this. I too was surprised at how many students had difficulty using a ruler to measure to the nearest quarter inch. :)

  4. I created a similar road trip project for my 7th pre-algebra class This year. Wrote a quick blog post and linked up my version of the project on my blog.

  5. Can someone please help me to solve this project im having trouble understanding this and the teachers ain't showing or explain to the Class