Using Mathematics, Web Maps, and Geography to Investigate Global Temperature Extremes

In my last post, I described some simple but powerful activities that you can use with students to engage them in mathematics using ArcGIS Online.   What else can you do with mathematics with ArcGIS Online?  Using another activity I have written, I invite students to investigate global temperature extremes.   The activity begins by asking two questions:  (1)  Can you work effectively with numbers so that they can understand extreme temperatures around the world?  (2) Can you compare and interpret information so that you can understand patterns over space and time?

Students conduct seven mathematics investigations in this activity:

1. Analyze temperature extremes data around the world including the temperature reading and the date.
2. Examine the relationship between the location (primarily: Altitude and latitude) of the extreme temperatures and the value of the temperature, and whether that temperature was a high or a low extreme.
3. Order and compare numbers in temperature data tables and on maps.
4. Round numbers in temperature data tables and maps.
5. Visually represent numbers in temperature data tables and maps.
6. Add and subtract whole numbers and decimals.
7. Compare temperature extremes over time by constructing graphs.

The activity begins by asking the students to describe the hottest and then the coldest day they have experienced, and what they did to cool down or warm up.  Next, using a map of temperatures plotted as points on a world map in ArcGIS Online, they describe the spatial pattern of global maximum and minimum temperature extremes.  Then, exploring the attribute table in tandem with the map, they answer the following questions:  ”What is the range of maximum temperatures shown on this map (between the lowest maximum and the highest maximum)? How many times hotter is the highest maximum temperature than the lowest maximum temperature? Round your final answer to the nearest degree. Show your work.”

Students then sort the table on latitude and graph the temperatures by latitude, and then create a histogram of temperature extremes by month of the year, using these graphs to make connections between the data, the map, climate, and seasons.   They zoom in to selected extreme temperature locations and examine the effect of local topography and proximity to oceans on extreme temperatures.   They also examine the temporal components of the data to determine the existence and length of heat waves and cold snaps.

What else could you do with this data or with other weather related data to connect science, geography, and mathematics using ArcGIS Online?

Examining global temperature extremes with ArcGIS Online.

Examining global temperature extremes with ArcGIS Online.

Joseph Kerski

About Joseph Kerski

Joseph Kerski is a geographer who believes that spatial analysis through digital mapping can transform education and society through better decision-making using the geographic perspective. He serves on the Esri education team and is active in GIS communication and outreach, creates GIS-based curriculum, conducts research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, teaches online and face-to-face courses on spatial thinking and analysis, and fosters partnerships to support GIS in formal and informal education at all levels, internationally. He is the co-author of Spatial Mathematics, The Essentials of the Environment, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, and other books. Follow him on Twitter @josephkerski
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