Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, May 27, 2013

Plotting Some Real-Life Math

Here's a fun way to teach your students to read a map, measure distance, and create a line plot.

Give each student a ruler. Download ruler patterns and other free printables from our website. Print a map of a town or community (yes, you can download the map, too). Explain that in the United States, maps are laid out with north toward the top of the page, west to the left, east to the right and south toward the bottom of the page. Not all cultures draw their maps this way! 
Explain that when we look at a map, we look for the north-south-east-west symbol (the compass rose) that will show how the places on the map relate to “the real world”.  On the Map of Town, the compass rose is a simple arrow diagram. The colored one below is much more elaborate. Download a Map of Town for each of your students.

Let your students measure lengths of the streets (1 inch = 1 mile) and find the distance from the bike to various buildings in the city. Write the various distances on the board. Talk about which distances are greater than the distance to the Elementary School. Which distances are less than the distance to the bank? 

Compare several distances in this way. Help the class determine the greatest and least distances. Draw a number line on the board using half inch increments with these extremes. Or download a number line from our website. Mark an X for each distance shown. Xs can “pile up” above repeated values.

Ask your students, if they are walking east on C Street, is the Post Office on their left or right? What if they are walking west on C Street? Being on the left or the right depends on the direction in which they are walking. 

If you have time, let your students each draw a small map. It can be a map of an actual place in your town or an imaginary place. They can draw vertical and/or horizontal lines using graph paper, to show streets or sidewalks. Have them indicate the start with a stick figure, an animal or a bike. On a separate piece of paper, have each student use his own map to write directions to certain landmarks from the start. Make sure they print their names on the map and on the directions page.
When finished, have your students exchange their maps and directions with each other. See if they can follow the directions and read the map created by their classmates.

As they read the directions, the students can move their pencils along the correct line in the correct direction and make the end of the line the point of an arrow. This will help them have the correct perspective to be able to answer the question.

How do you help your students use line plots and read maps? Share your suggestions in the Comments box below.

New to Excel Math? Take a look at elementary math lessons that really work for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade on our website: Also find lots of math resources for teachers, parents and students at

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