Sunday, November 1, 2015

Google Maps & Midpoint/Distance Formulas Project

As has been the theme of many of my posts this year - my geometry students are all pretty much 1:1. So, I keep trying to reimagine and reinvent what technology makes possible for my kids this year.

Last year I did a project based learning unit for midpoint and distance. Kids had to design and make water parks. That was a lot of fun, but project based learning is hard work, and frankly, the way that project is designed - it took a lot of cash to fund the purchase of a bajillion glue gun sticks, foam, felt, cardstock, popsicle sticks, etc. My school just doesn't have the cash this year, but - having a positive mindset - what do we have? Technology.

I'm sure most of everyone has read/heard about the optimized Road Trip Map produced by some data scientists. If not, you can (and should) read about it HERE.

Maybe it's just me, but I think there is something inherently interesting about a great American Road Trip. I started wondering how I could capture this for my midpoint/distance formula project.

First, there are way too many locations, so I narrowed my project down to the Northeast. It starts at my high school and returns there. I used Google Maps to record the address, latitude, and longitude (in decimal degrees) of each destination.

Here is my file. Feel free to use it, but you'll want to change the start/finish from my high school. To make it easier, tell your kids you are flying into the Lexington,KY (LEX) airport and reroute accordingly.


I debated having kids plot these locations themselves. However, we don't have Google Classroom or GAFE. The lack of these resources makes having students collaboratively working in Google much, much harder. If you have these resources, let them plot the destinations themselves. It takes a little work. You need to enter all points of interest in a spreadsheet (I did address, latitude, and longitude) and then upload as a layer in My Maps. Then, you can create driving directions as additional layers. If kids had these files and could interactively work with them, I'd also have them upload a photo of each destination within the map. This year, I'm trying to not only teach math but also teach students how to use digital tools well. Very few of mine know much about technology except for how to use their phones.

Okay. So, the premise is that we are road tripping and obviously driving to each destination. Students will click on the location marker and record the important info about each place (street, city, state, zip, latitude, and longitude). Then, for almost all locations, they have to Google and determine where they are. I only gave names for strange places to search for by address - like historic districts. They'll record all this information on their handout.

Handout: HERE

Then, they have to do a little research and find out what's special about this place. For each destination, I've created some fill-in sentence-type web quests for students to complete. Each destination also has a virtual tour (except I'm still looking for something about the historic district in Annapolis Maryland) for students to take.

Here is my list of virtual tours:

#1 - Start @ High School
#2 - Mammoth Cave -
#3 - Spring Grove Cemetery -
#4 - Fox Theatre (Detroit) -
#5 - The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame -
#8 - Acadia National Park -
#10 - The Breakers -
#11 - Mark Twain House & Museum -
#13 - Liberty Bell -
#14 - Cape May Historic District -
#15 - New Castle Historic District -
#16 - Colonial Annapolis
#19 - Lost World Caverns -

The last page of the packet has some summary information the kids have to compile.  For example, for each leg of the trip, the kids have to calculate the straight line distance using the distance formula (then use a conversion to get the value to miles) and the time it would take to travel such distance at a constant rate of 60 MPH. They have to compare this to the actual distance and figure out why these straight line distances don't make sense.... i.e. the world is round and thus we should really calculate these distances using great circle calculations.

This reasoning is the best way I could figure out to get kids practicing the distance formula with latitude/longitude and still have them reason/make sense of why the numbers are so off. If anybody else has a better way to integrate the distance formula into this, please let me know!

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