Hands-on Activity: A Tornado in My State?
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
The United States, on average, experiences about 1,000 tornadoes a year. They can range from a few feet to more than a mile in diameter and can travel distances from a few hundred feet to many miles.
In the United States tornadoes occur with the highest intensity and highest frequency in a region called 'Tornado Alley.' This region, which is located east of the Rocky Mountains, covers all or parts of the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. However, tornadoes can occur in each of the 50 states.
Engineers work to build structures that better withstand the strong winds of a tornado, especially in those states where tornadoes occur most frequently. They also collect and analyze data to better understand tornadoes so that they can better predict where they will occur and how damaging they might be.
In this activity, we will look at the number of tornadoes that has occurred in each state during the period 1950-1994. We will analyze some of these data and represent them in various forms.
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
Make sure students clearly understand what median and mode are.
Calculators will probably be necessary to calculate the mean of the data.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Prediction: Have students predict which states have the most and fewest tornadoes. Have them write their answers down in their science journals or on a sheet of paper.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Worksheet/ Pairs Check: Have students work individually or in pairs on their worksheet. Students who work in pairs should check each other's answers.
Post Activity Assessment
Prediction Revisited: Have students review which states have the most and fewest tornadoes. Have them look at their predictions in their science journals or on a sheet of paper. Were they right?
Graphing: Students should create a bar graph of the ten states with the most number of tornadoes. Students then create a bar graph of the ten states with the least number of tornadoes.
Engineering Analysis: Have students write an engineering analysis of the data they graphed. Tell them to write a paragraph summarizing what the graphs tell them. This should be 3-4 sentences describing any patterns they see, the median and mode of the data, and why understanding the data is important to engineers.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
For more math extensions, have students use the Alphabetized Worksheet and put all 50 states in ranked order.
Have students research tornado activity in their own state.
The following website has state-specific information about tornadoes, including annual averages of tornadoes and averages of very strong tornadoes by state. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/severeweather/tornadoes.html
For advanced students: Calculate the average number of tornadoes in the top ten states for a given year (students should find the average of the top ten states and than divide that number by 45 because data is for 45 years).
References (Return to Contents)
ContributorsJessica Todd, Melissa Straten, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
Copyright© 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.