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  • Climate Action
  • Climate Science
  • Economic Impact
  • Sustainability


  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Data Analysis

Regional Focus

  • Global

So How Should We Get There?

Created by: Dan Castrigano
Date: Jul 31, 2021
Duration: 85 minutes
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th
Subject: Math
Keywords: transportation, carbon footprint, emissions, aviation, travel, flying, airplanes, flights, cars, bicycles, trains, buses, mathematics, infrastructure
Formats: Google Slides, YouTube Video

This lesson features a comparison of different travel options from New York City to six other cities. Students compare walking, biking, driving, taking the bus, riding the train, and flying. Students conduct research and calculate the CO2e for each travel option.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students watch short video on the climate crisis. In groups, students explore and discuss emissions from the transportation sector.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students are assigned one route between New York City and another city in the Northeast. Students calculate miles, cost, time, and CO2e for each travel option for their route.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students participate in a group discussion about the results and explore different ways to decarbonize our transportation system.

Accompanying Teaching Materials

10 minutes
60 minutes
  • Teacher assigns each group to a specific route. Each route begins in New York City and ends in a specific destination.

  • Teacher explains the task:
    • "It takes energy to move our bodies throughout our beautiful Earth. These methods of moving ourselves around look very different from one another. We can walk on our own two feet, burn gasoline in a car, or burn jet fuel in the atmosphere in an airplane. Each method of transportation has its pros and cons. Most importantly, many of our transportation methods still rely on fossil fuels. And we must stop burning fossil fuels immediately in order to begin healing our planet."
    • "The goal of this exercise is to compare different methods of transportation. We will be looking at distance, cost, time, pollution, and how these methods of travel are viewed by society."
  • Each group researches and completes their own chart.
15 minutes

    • In their groups, students discuss the questions on slide 13.
    • Teacher facilitates a full class discussion using these guiding questions.
      Teaching Tips


      • This is a fun, imaginative, engaging lesson.

      • This lesson features many math skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by rational numbers; estimation; logic and reasoning skills; problem-solving skills; and algebraic thinking.

      Additional Prerequisites

      • Transportation is the largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. We must decarbonize our transportation systems immediately to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

      • Students use equations derived from Peter Kalmus’s book called Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.
      • The Ford F-150 is used as the example vehicle because it is the best-selling vehicle in the United States. The unit CO2e is used for all travel options. CO2e is used because traveling by plane creates non-CO2 warming effects. You can read more about aviation’s non-CO2 warming effects at the Stay Grounded Website. So in order to best compare the pollution from these travel options, we must use the unit CO2e.
      • CO2e is a metric measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases on the basis of their global-warming potential (GWP), by converting amounts of other gases to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide with the same global warming potential.
      • There may not be an easy travel option for each route, so students might have to problem-solve.
      • The "How is it viewed by society?" column in the data chart is meant for students to discuss society’s views of that method of transportation. Do people think it is crazy? Normal? Only for the rich? Is one method considered only for "poor people"? Is one considered trendy or cool? Is it comfortable to travel in that way? Is it easy or difficult? These are all good prompts to ask students.
      • Encourage students to have an open mind when discussing low-carbon travel options, such as riding the bus or train. Some students may have never traveled long-distance by bus or train. These are low-carbon options that are significantly better for the planet than driving or flying.


      • Students can use the glossary on slide 14 to better understand vocabulary.

      • Students can answer the extension questions on slide 12 if they finish early.
      • Students can help other groups complete their charts if they finish early.
      • Students can check over other students’ answers if they finish early.
      • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.Math)
        • The Number System
          • 6.NS.2 Fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm.
      • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.Math)
        • The Number System
          • 6.NS.3 Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.
      • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.Math)
        • The Number System
          • 7.NS.1 Apply and extend previous understandings of addition and subtraction to add and subtract rational numbers; represent addition and subtraction on a horizontal or vertical number line diagram.
      • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.Math)
        • The Number System
          • 7.NS.2 Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division and of fractions to multiply and divide rational numbers.
      • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.Math)
        • The Number System
          • 7.NS.3 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.
      • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.Math)
        • Expressions And Equations
          • 7.EE.3 Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. For example: If a woman making $25 an hour gets a 10% raise, she will make an additional 1/10 of her salary an hour, or $2.50, for a new salary of $27.50. If you want to place a towel bar 9 3/4 inches long in the center of a door that is 27 1/2 inches wide, you will need to place the bar about 9 inches from each edge; this estimate can be used as a check on the exact computation.


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