Hands-on Activity: Scaling the Map

Contributed by: Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Portion of a map showing a grid and distance scale. Each grid side is 10 km.
Students use map scale to determine map distances and areas
copyright
Copyright © Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Summary

Students learn how to determine map distances and areas using the map scale. They get a feel for how much an area represents on the map in relation to the size they are suggesting for their underground caverns to shelter the Alabraska population.

Engineering Connection

Many types of engineers - civil, geological, petroleum, environmental - must fully understand maps, map reading and map creation to assist in the research and planning of engineering design solutions, such as designing roadways and tunnels, drilling for water or fossil fuels, creating dams, tracking air pollution.

Learning Objectives

  • Use a map scale to determine distances between cities on a map and the size of areas on a map.
  • Compare map areas determined in this lesson/activity to areas from a previous lesson/activity.
  • Relate map areas and lengths to a real-world situation.

More Curriculum Like This

Scaling the Map

Continuing the Asteroid Impact challenge, students learn how to determine map distances and areas using a map scale. They also get a better feel for how much an area represents on a map in relation to the sizes they are suggesting for their underground caverns.

Middle School Lesson
Topo Map Mania!

Students learn to identify the common features of a map. Through the associated activities, students learn how to use a compass to find bearing to an object on a map and in the classroom.

Middle School Lesson
Possible Locations

Continuing the Asteroid Impact challenge, students use their knowledge of scales and areas to cut out rectangular paper pieces to represent caverns to scale with the maps. They place the paper cutouts on the maps to determine the best locations.

Middle School Lesson
Possible Locations

Students use their knowledge of scales and areas to determine the best locations in Alabraska for the underground caverns. They cut out rectangular paper pieces to represent caverns to scale with the maps and place the cut-outs on the maps to determine feasible locations.

Middle School Activity

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. (Grade 6) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Solve problems involving scale drawings of geometric figures, including computing actual lengths and areas from a scale drawing and reproducing a scale drawing at a different scale. (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Develop and communicate an evidence based scientific explanation around one or more factors that change Earth's surface (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Analyze and interpret data identifying ways Earth's surface is constantly changing through a variety of processes and forces such as plate tectonics, erosion, deposition, solar influences, climate, and human activity (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Gather, analyze, and communicate data that explains Earth's plates, plate motions, and the results of plate motions (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

  • rulers, meter sticks, measuring tapes
  • calculators
  • 4 attached handouts: Scaling the Map Worksheet, Alabraska General Map, Alabraska Geology Map, Reference Page (vocabulary, formulas, unit conversions)
  • (optional) a large size of the Alabraska General Map, 2 ft x 3 ft ( .6 x 1 m), for display at the front of the classroom (or enlarge and display via projector)

Introduction/Motivation

Now that the engineering teams know the required cavern area, they translate that information to a map to see how big the cavern is compared to the size of the state of Alabraska.

Procedure

  1. Hand out the materials to the groups. Post the large-sized Alabraska General Map at the front of the classroom.
  2. Re-familiarize students with the maps by asking them a few questions, for example: What is the capitol of Alabraska? Where is it located in terms of grid coordinates? What types of transportation are represented in the state of Alabraska?
  3. Discuss the map scale with the students. Lead them through some examples by making map measurements with a ruler and then determining how many miles this represents according to the map scale. For example, if 1 centimeter = 10 kilometers, then 3 cm on the map represents 30 kms in the real world.
  4. Give the engineering teams time to complete the worksheet. TIPS for selected worksheet questions: 1) Ask students to compare their answers to the distance from their homes to school as a way to put the worksheet answers into perspective. 2) The grid space area is determined by multiplying length by width. 3) Students should figure out that they can count grid spaces within the military base and multiply by the area per grid space (Q2 answer). 4) This is to give the students perspective. 5) They should find that Alabraska is much bigger than the required cavern area.
  5. As time permits (or assign as homework): If students drew plans of their cavern designs at the end of the previous lesson (How Big? lesson), have them re-draw them to scale. An appropriate scale is 1 cm = 1 km.

Attachments

Assessment

  • Review students' worksheet answers to gauge their comprehension of the subject matter.
  • As a concluding quiz, have students estimate the distance from two cities, such as London to Moscow, or the area of the U.S., using a different map. Or have students conduct the Extension activities.

Activity Extensions

  • Find a map of the U.S. and use the scale to determine the area of any state.
  • Find the largest country in the world and use the scale to determine its size.
  • What are the tallest buildings in the world? For example, the Sears Tower in Chicago is 1,350 feet tall. If you were asked to build a model of this skyscraper with a scale of 1 inch = 100 feet, how tall would it be? (Answer: 13.5 inches tall.) For extra credit, convert English units to metric units, or vice versa.

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Acknowledgements

Adventure Engineering was supported by National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 9950660 and GK-12 0086457. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: November 7, 2017

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