Exploration Math

Great way to connect math and social studies in a 5th grade class.
Reading maps is much like looking at coordinate grids.  The latitude and longitude lines resemble the x and y axises so much, that it is easy to make the comparison.  So when studying about the early European Explorers, it seemed natural to combine math with a geography lesson.

I began by giving my students some generic coordinates to map on a coordinate grid.   Combined with an anchor chart, this served as a good way to introduce the idea of coordinate grids as a math standard in 5th grade.  They plotted individual points as well as connected ones.  They then were given more coordinates, but this time, the grid itself was overlaid on top of a map of Europe and the Americas.  I gave the students a set of coordinates that were roughly the stopping points on the journeys of a few famous early European explorers.   The students needed to then plot the journeys of Christopher Columbus and Leif Erikson, whose journey points they were given.  Doing this showed them how to not only plot points, but to avoid land masses when connecting the two destination points.

Finally, after all of the front loading and guided practice, I set my students off on the task of mapping 8 European explorers from the Age of Exploration on their own.  I gave my students a blank map of the world (that you can find here. ) They then were given a set of coordinates for all 8 of the explorers.  The kids needed to find the first coordinate and then connect it to the second set of coordinates.  In some cases, there was a third stop on the voyage (and in the case of Sir Francis Drake, 5!)

Kids learned very quickly that some voyages took them around South America or Africa or even up north in the Arctic, and if you drew a straight line you would have to sail your boat across land...a feat they knew was impossible.  The students needed to problem solve a way to remedy this situation.  They figured out that the boats needed to go around (and possibly discover things like the Cape of South Africa in the process.)

This task proved to be a challenge for many of the students.  Trying to map routes that basically went the same way, or that started in the same place, was difficult for the kids to wrap their heads around.  They really wanted everyone to have completely different coordinates, however since many of them began their journeys in Spain or Portugal or England or France, the coordinate set was all interrelated.  The students then had to become organized problem solvers to keep all of their data and coordinates from becoming a big jumbled mess.

For the final piece, once all of the math was done, I had the students write a little summary paragraph of the voyage.  I gave them a super simple 8 section table (I just sent it out through Google Classroom...you can get a copy here.) and they inserted each of the names of the explorers and then information they researched.

When this was done, I combined the "Zentangle Ships" the students created, had them paint a globe, and put those two pieces together.  They are now hanging in my room....and look gorgeous!

So there you have it....a social studies/math connection with a little research and art thrown in :)   Would you like the resources I used to teach this to my students?  You can pick them up here.

21 comments

  1. ...and an ELA connection! I love this! What a cute idea!

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  2. Oh - such a GREAT idea!!! I must remember to align my explorer unit to more fitting math strands next year. Thanks!!!

    Jen
    Runde's Room

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  3. I just love this! I'll definitely be doing this!

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  4. This is great - another great opportunity is map scales. That's such a challenging idea for my little guys!

    Buzzing with Ms. B

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  5. Thanks everyone! I really think it caused the kids to *think* which is always a plus when teaching a lesson ;)

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  6. Thank you for all the great ideas you share! You're awesome :)

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  7. I love this idea. I really miss teaching social studies. Do you ever use Google Earth? It would be fun to have a couple tell their story on the computer too. I am going to share your project with my other teachers at my school. Thanks for sharing!
    Mrs. Esswein

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  8. I loved the explorer lesson plan! I would love to do it in my class. Where did you get the coordinates for each of the explorers' routes?

    Regards,
    Rebecca

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  9. I love this idea! Where did you get the coordinates for the routes?

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  10. I'd also like to know where you found the coordinates? Was it in the ELD book?

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    1. Yes, they came out of the ELD book. Sorry I don't have a set for you.

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  11. Hi..I absolutely love this idea. I am always looking for more things to do with social studies because we do not have any real direction about social studies. Where did you get the coordinates? Do you mind if I pick your brain about this because I would love to do this with my class and give you all the credit for it. Thanks!
    Lindsay

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  12. Hello! I'm interested in trying this with my class. Where did you get the routes? Which ELD book did you use to get the coordinates?

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  13. I tried this lesson this year with my kiddos and was BLOWN AWAY by the focused, independent learning that it fostered. Thank you a thousand times for sharing this great lesson. I posted about our journey and give you all credit for this lesson inspiration!

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    1. So glad you had such a great experience! This does sound like a terrific project! Do you have the coordinates for the activity? It seems not to be accessible. Would love it if you could pass them along. Email: tmeloy@centerusd.org

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  14. This looks great! Does anyone know where to get explorers coordinates??

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  15. This sounds wonderful! My class is currently studying explorers. Can I please have a copy of your coordinate worksheet? My e-mail is noelledoan@hotmail.com . What is the measuring tool hanging above the picture?

    Thank you,
    Noelle

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  16. I would love to get a copy of those coordinates as well. Any chance you can email or post them? Thank you so much for this wonderfully amazing idea.

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