I love surprising my students with facts and trivia that will make curricular elements stick with them. Previously, I discussed using place as proof and analyzing water resources. What about breaking the stereotype that if you're good at English then you can't do math! The students I tutor in Algebra are always surprised that I "can do math."
A great way to incorporate a little math is a journey book or story. A great example is Journey to Jo'burg by Beverly Naidoo. A 13-year old boy and his sister must make a journey 300 kilometers from their small village to Johannesburg, South Africa to get medical help. How far is that...really? For you sharp GIS folks, it's a quick little buffer activity in ArcGIS or AEJEE. You could use ArcGIS Explorer and measure that distance; however, if you only have the internet available to your classroom, our trusty tool Sketch-A-Map can give us some assistance here. As the teacher you will have to do some homework here to discover real distance. In the case of our story, Pietersburg, South Africa is approximately 300 kilometers from Johannesburg.
With the street map in view, students can draw a line on the map of that distance and more lines to discover where the children's small village is. For some perspective, then we could zoom over to the USA and draw a similar line from Washington, D.C. to Newark, NJ. It's about the same distance. Most students would realize quickly, "Hey! That's pretty far!" Most of my students wouldn't have considered such a journey!
Now that we can see that journey on the map, let's appreciate what Tiro and Naledi in the story did to get help. Time to do a little math!
1 mile = 1.609344 kilometers. How many miles is 300 kilometers? What city is that distance from your town?
A person could walk about 2.5 miles per hour. If you made the journey, how long would it take you to get there?
If you're just a little creative, you can continue to cover your required content and give students important connections to their curriculum! As an added bonus, the math teacher will be happy too!