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Road Trip Math Project

posted Dec 27, 2014, 2:18 PM by Cori Frede   [ updated Dec 27, 2014, 2:21 PM by Cori Frede ]
The week before a holiday break is often a difficult time for educators. We might have already finished our last unit but don't want to start something new before the break. In addition, students have often already gone into "vacation mode" and are uninterested in focusing on lessons. Turn to a hands-on project.

Prior to having enough computers, I would force my students to go ninty's style to plan a week long road trip across the country. AAA was a great resource for free travel guides to all fifty states and maps. Of course, I'd have to go to a few different locations so I didn't feel awkward grabbing so many guides. Flash forward to this year and a trip for myself to Austin for GTA where I learned about some hidden gems on the Google platform. I've reinvented my old vacation project for the next generation of technology savvy students.

To complete this project, my students used two different digital tools. MyMaps.google.com and presentations in Google Drive.

I gave my students the following introduction for the project:
MTV wants to see what pre-teens find exciting. You and your partner have won a contest. MTV has given you a tour bus (with a driver). The bus will pick you up at school on the first day of vacation and return to school in one week. As part of the prize, MTV will be recording your road trip for a reality show. In order to make sure that you stay safe during the trip, the producers and your parents are requiring you to map out your trip before you leave. 

Students were given a mini-lesson on using MyMaps and a basic template for their presentations. For each stop on the trip, students need to map the destination on their maps and then create a slide for the stop. Each slide had a 3-2-1 requirement. 
3 - activities to do at the destination
2 - pictures of the area
1 - website source (not Wikipedia) for the destination

I just want to point out that I allowed my students to use Wikipedia as a starting point, but many use it as a shortcut. By banning it as a source, it forces my students to actually look at other websites.

The presentation template had three slides. The first was a title page that said "type your names here" and "link your map here" with a note stating they could change the slide anyway as long as it still had those two requirements. The second slide was a sample 3-2-1 about our home city of Philadelphia. Finally, the third slide that students needed to complete was for their fictional driver. This slide had a table with unit rates for the students to complete. I didn't want to worry about speed limits or let students use the details given on MyMaps so I gave the students a constant speed of 60 miles per hour and gas usage of 15 miles per gallon. I explained that they should assume there was no traffic or lights. Using their maps, students needed to determine the travel time and gas used for each leg of the trip. I explained that while they could eat, sleeping, use the bathroom, etc on bus, the driver needed to stop at least once every five hours. This prevented students from driving non-stop from coast to coast and required them to pay attention to their maps.

While I didn't give them a set number of stops, I told students that with the maximum traveling time, I expected at least two stops per day (14 minimum) but they could always stop more if they choose.

Common Core Standards
This lesson can be adapted for many grade levels based on the complexity of your assignments. This assignment can fit and be used with a variety of standards. This is just a small sampling of the Common Core 8th Grade standards for reference purposes.

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.SP.A.3 Use the equation of a linear model to solve problems in the context of bivariate measurement data, interpreting the slope and intercept. For example, in a linear model for a biology experiment, interpret a slope of 1.5 cm/hr as meaning that an additional hour of sunlight each day is associated with an additional 1.5 cm in mature plant height.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.EE.B.5Graph proportional relationships, interpreting the unit rate as the slope of the graph. Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways. For example, compare a distance-time graph to a distance-time equation to determine which of two moving objects has greater speed.

Work Cited
  1. Mathematics Stanards. (n.d.). Common Core State Standards Initiative. Retrieved December 27, 2014, from http://www.corestandards.org/Math/