I am working with Google Earth in my middle school math classes this year. I have found that students are very excited to work with it and so we have already had some lessons on how to use the different tools, such as adding placemarks, creating paths, and measuring with the ruler. Google Earth is a good resource because it can be used asynchronously and the files can be downloaded or emailed. The students also learned how to annotate their work and add citations.

What I am interested in is how to use Google Earth beyond the obvious. It's pretty cool to find your house or go to Paris, but how can it be incorporated in a math class? True the measuring tool is very useful; you can measure in miles, kilometers, and more. But what else?

We have used Google Earth to plot some historic typhoons that have struck our island. The students used typhoon data for the plotting, added a path and image, and annotated everything. They liked the assignment but several times students wondered aloud "What's this have to do with math?". That's what I liked about it. They were using math and didn't realize it. They were creating a graphic representation of an historic event - a geographic line graph. They were using data, representing values in a variety of ways, measuring, predicting, adding meaning to numbers, etc. I would agree it wasn't the typical textbook math lesson and that may be why they enjoyed it. This lesson covered just about every NETS standard as well.

It was real. They remembered the typhoon and shared their experiences with one another. They talked to their parents about it. I offered this assignment to my colleagues as a chance for cross-curricular lessons. I was disappointed when the English and History teachers didn't take me up on it as a writing portion, but they had their own things to do, I guess.

I also had a class of 8th graders use Google Earth. This was an open-ended problem solving activity in which they played the role of the Coast Guard and had to conduct a search and rescue operation. I gave them wind, currents, and other parameters and they had to devise a search plan and map it on Google Earth. I created a file of a missing boat and when the students had finished, we were able to conclude whether it was a successful rescue or not. Sound interesting?

Coincidently, as we were doing this assignment Steve Fossett disappeared. The news reported that Google Earth was being used by people on the Internet to search for him!

Do you have any ideas on using Google Earth in math or other subject areas that you would like to share?

PS: The attachment below is a screen image of the typhoon assignment.

Tags: cross-curricular, earth, gearth, google, math

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Population figures? Students could possibly run the numbers on population over a given time and generate a hypothesis for what it might look like in 10,20, or 50 years( either globally or for a specific area).

Cross curricular ideas could involve social studies(social factors that have impacted population), science(scientific factors that may have impacted population such as agriculture, climate, etc..). Other ideas might be reading stories related to particular times of growth, writing a plan to deal with possible factors that could arise during a large growth period such as over-population, food production, the effects of a large population on the environment.. I'm sure Al Gore could be thrown in there somewhere :)

Just a couple of ideas. It's not really my area of expertise coming from an arts background, but I hope it helps.
Good ideas Scott. I was thinking of doing something on contagious outbreaks - the plague! I believe there are some models they used to gauge the range or area of a small pox outbreak. There is certainly a great potential for cross curricular involvement in ideas like yours. Now I think I need to join a discussion group on how to get teachers involved in cross curricular kinds of activities.
Unfortunately, I don't have any math uses, but if anyone out there has any uses for a middle school Science class please let me know.

Hi David,
Science can be involved in many of these activities! For instance, my initial assignment was plotting the track of a typhoon. It would have been nice if the science department got involved and added to the assignment from their perspective. The English department could have had students write about their typhoon experiences or the Social Science department could have had the students investigate and write on typhoons of the past. I was sorry to see that this assignment did not reach its full potential, but that is the type of lesson I want to develop for Google Earth.

In regards to Science though, play around with Google Earth to see what it is capable of. One area I am going to explore further is its ability to portray things in a 3D environment. Whatever you have, the user can pan and "walk" around it. Also, note the different units available with the ruler tool. Oh, and have you seen the "Sky" version of Google Earth which includes the solar system and Hubble pictures?
Don't forget about the obvious...Google Earth uses longitude and latitude coordinates. These lend themselves quite nicely to mathematics. :o)
Great ideas - I am adding these to my Google resources. - and subscribing to the feed. Keep them coming.
Thanks for your reply Wade,
We had some difficulty working with Google Earth as far as Mac vs. PC. I have a Mac and so I had trouble helping my students with the PC version, which apparently is different. We also had some problems with images, but in the end it all worked out. Oh, the hardest problem we had was if a student had the program in a different language, like Korean, but they didn't know the language well enough to translate some of the functions. I showed them how to change the language on Google Earth, but other than that it was beyond me.
Hi Wade,
I would be very interested in looking at your biome use of google earth. I have just had a smartboard put permanently in my room and would love to use google earth with it. I often do the topic biomes when I study survival as my main theme.
I would like to give everyone some great resources to use with GOOGLE EARTH...I have used this during two national conferences. . and with only an hour presentation, it is IMPOSSIBLE to go through it all...(plus, I have a new friend in Ohio that does this too and we put all of her resources into it too!!
http://www.googleearthgoods.pbwiki.com and the password to login is my name, cindylane
check out the FILES page for a very cool ANIMOTO video too!!
Thanks Cindy. I took a look at one of your PowerPoints already. You have a slide with a grid over the Google Earth main screen. Is this a setting on Google Earth or did you draw that on? That would be useful for estimation activities.

I'm about 2 months away from completing my site. When it is done I'll put a link or notice on your Wiki or contact you. Thanks for putting an idea in my head. I still need a few more.
Thanks Sue. I'm not sure how I would incorporate biomes with the math. I had thought of some rate problems with wildfires but otherwise I don't have any pure science topics as yet. Do you have anything particular in mind?
FYI- the site should be online in 2 months.
There are some other uses of Google Earth in the math curriculum I am writing lessons for.

I believe I read somewhere that the film Powers of Ten was an influence in the creation of Google Earth. There is also a book whose title I can't recall, but basically it involves viewing a spot on the Earth at different magnitudes of the power of ten. For instance, viewing a spot from an elevation of 1 meter, 10 meters, 100 meters, and so on. The book I saw had a view that ranged from the outer solar system to the atomic level.

Also Benoit Mandelbrot, a pioneer in the study of fractals, wrote a paper exploring the length of the coastline of Britain. The length of the perimeter would vary depending on the scale of measure you use. So something could have infinite perimeter and a finite area (ie Koch snowflake). Google Earth supplies the view of Britain from different elevations and the ruler - perfect!

Thank you for the replies. Keep the suggestions coming!



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