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Integers and the Coordinate Plane

Finding Your Way on Mars, and in the Milky Way!

Objectives: As astronomers study stars, planets and galaxies, they keep track of their positions in space. For flat systems like our solar system, or traveling over the surface of planets like Mars, a 2-dimensional coordinate plane is useful to identify positions. Students will learn more about NASAís Curiosity roverís travels across Mars by reading a NASA press release. By viewing a NASA eClips video segment, students will reinforce their understanding of rectangular coordinate systems. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of integers and the coordinate plane system by completing several problems.

Mathematics Skill or Topic Area:

Integers and the Coordinate Plane

Next Gen Science Framework: ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System, PS3.A: Definitions of Energy, ETS1: Engineering Design

Common Core ELA for Science: RST.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. RST.6-8.8. Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text. RST.6-8.9. Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

Common Core Math Standard: 6.NS.8 Solve real-world and mathematical problems by graphing points in all four quadrants of the coordinate plane. Include use of coordinates and absolute value to find distances between points with the same first coordinate or the same second coordinate.

Video Engagement: Rectangular Coordinate System This NASA eClips video segment students use a number line in a rectangular coordinate system. Identify horizontal and vertical axis lines, quadrants, coordinates, ordered pairs and integers. Example problems help review key concepts. (7 minutes). View Program

Engage your students with a press release:

NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface

NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence that a stream of water once ran across the area on Mars that the rover is currently exploring.

Scientists made this discovery by carefully studying two outcrops, called "Hottah" and "Link". "Hottah looks like someone jack - hammered a slab of city sidewalk. But it's really a tilted block of an ancient stream bed," said Mars Project Scientist John Grotzinger.

The data match up with some of the earlier data Curiosity gathered soon after it landed. The rocket exhaust swept away loose gravel near the landing site 40 days earlier. This revealed the first evidence for running water on Mars. This water was actually present many billions of years ago. Today, conditions are much too hostile for running water to exist. Only fossil traces of it can be found in the rocks that Curiosity is studying. The other Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, also found evidence for water on Mars when they discovered minerals called hemetite. These minerals only form when there is lots of water present.

Since it landed, Curiosity has been studying another kind of rock called a conglomerate. These rocks look like small rounded pebbles held together by a different kind of rock. This is just the way that ordinary cement on Earth holds gravel together. The gravels found at both Hottah and Link range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. As on Earth, rounded rocks mean that the rock has been eroded by wind or water action. Large rounded rocks cannot be blown around by wind. They are much too heavy. That means they need something like water or even glacial ice to push them around.

The science team will also be using Curiosity to learn much more about the material that holds the rocks together. This could tell the scientists more about the wet environment that formed these deposits.

Press release date line - September 27, 2012

Press release location: [ Click Here ]

Explore math connections with


Problem I - Guess this Constellation! - For thousands of years astronomers have plotted the locations of the stars in the sky so that they can keep track of new events that happen, like the slow movement of a planet across the sky, or even an exploding star that suddenly appears. Only a few hundred bright stars can be seen with the naked eye looking from homes in a city. Traveling into the country, with its dark skies, increases the numbers of stars visible to the naked eye. In this problem students will graph the positions of several stars to form a star map, and identify the constellation! [Open PDF ]

Problem II - Following the Curiosity Rover on Mars - The Curiosity Rover is traveling across the surface of Mars, stopping during the martian night to conserve energy. These stops are called Way Stations. Students will record the location of a series of Way Stations as ordered pairs in this problem.. Open PDF

Explain your thinking:

Write your own problem - Using information found in the Math Connection problems, the press release or the video program, create your own math problem. Explain why you set the problem up this way, and how you might find its answer.

Evaluate your understanding:

Challenge Problem - Our Place in the Milky Way - In this problem students will locate some famous nebulae in the Milky Way by comparing their coordinates with the locations of nearby spiral arms. Astronomers have been able to discover that there are 4 separate spiral arms in the Milky Way. Our galaxy is shaped very much like a gigantic pinwheel! The shape is more clearly defined as more objects are plotted. Open PDF



3-D Solar System

Extend your new knowledge - Explore different coordinate systems in the solar system. [ Open PDF ]