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NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans, 30-60 minutes
  • Worksheets
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Artwork
  • Interactive Media
  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West, California



Fired Up Over Math: Studying Wildfires From Space

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  • In this lesson, students will explore fire progression maps for various wildfires in California's history, the Sand Fire's burn scar, and the difficulties firefighters faced during the King Fire.
  • Students will complete a worksheet that develops their critical thinking skills and interactive media that allows them to consider a "bird's-eye" view of an area.
Teaching Tips


  • The worksheet is well-organized and easy to follow, and its difficulty increases so that teachers of elementary or middle grades can easily remove questions that aren't appropriate for their grade level.
  • This lesson includes many NASA videos that teachers can use for extension purposes.

Additional Prerequisites

  • For high school students, Google Earth is necessary for this lesson.
  • It may be helpful if students know the term burn scar.
  • The fourth paragraph in the background section introduces many otherwise unfamiliar terms and may benefit students to read before starting the lesson.
  • Some links embedded in the background text and under the extension section don't work but aren't necessary for understanding the subject matter.


  • Older students can use the worksheet for a research project on the devastating nature of wildfires and how proper forest management can mitigate this destruction.
  • Teachers can use this lesson as a conceptual introduction to natural hazards exacerbated by climate change.
  • This lesson can support a classroom discussion on the social, economic, and health impacts of wildfires.
  • Only high school students should be required to complete the entire worksheet.
Scientist Notes

This resource is from the CLEAN collection. “The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness.”

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 4-ESS2-2 Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-6 Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Algebra: Creating Equations (9-12)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSA.CED.A.4 Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations. For example, rearrange Ohm's law V = IR to highlight resistance R.
    • Expressions & Equations (6-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.EE.B.5 Graph proportional relationships, interpreting the unit rate as the slope of the graph. Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways. For example, compare a distance-time graph to a distance-time equation to determine which of two moving objects has greater speed.
    • Geometry (K-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.G.A.2 Partition shapes into parts with equal areas. Express the area of each part as a unit fraction of the whole. For example, partition a shape into 4 parts with equal area, and describe the area of each part as 1/4 of the area of the shape.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.G.A.1 Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons by composing into rectangles or decomposing into triangles and other shapes; apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
    • Measurement & Data (K-5)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.C.5 Recognize area as an attribute of plane figures and understand concepts of area measurement.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.C.6 Measure areas by counting unit squares (square cm, square m, square in, square ft, and improvised units).
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.C.7 Relate area to the operations of multiplication and addition.
    • Number & Operations—Fractions (3-5)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NF.B.4 Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction or whole number by a fraction.
    • Number & Quantity: Quantities (9-12)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSN.Q.A.1 Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.
    • Ratios & Proportional Relationships (6-7)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.3 Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations.
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