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.