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The Math of Hurricane Sandy

hurricaneSchools were closed up and down the East Coast earlier this week, and countless cities and towns are in the beginning stages of recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. For math teachers in other parts of the country who want to give students a perspective on the events, NCTM has a few resources to offer:

  • In the Illuminations activity Vector Investigation: Boat to the Island, students use vectors to steer a boat to an island or to catch a school of fish. However, if they play the app in Game mode, they can try to avoid a hurricane in Level 5.
  • By using the applet Sums of Vectors and Their Properties, you can help students extend their knowledge of number systems to the system of vectors. In this Principles and Standards for School Mathematics e-example, a red vector represents wind, and students use the blue vector to direct the airplane to “catch” the hurricane.
  • You and your students can determine a hurricane’s category and learn about how a hurricane forms and is tracked in “Ridin’ out the Storm” (Student Explorations in Mathematics, September 2010; subscription required).
  • Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Hurricane Tracking” offers hurricane-based mathematics tasks in Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School (MTMS, May 2008; subscription required). These tasks involving cooperative learning were found to help students enhance their understanding of patterns, graphs, and rates of change.
  • Math for Real: Hurricane-Force Math” is an activity in MTMS (August 2011; subscription required) involving wind speed. Students encounter a variety of math topics, including converting between units, interpreting the slope of linear equations, determining a line of best fit, and making predictions from a model.


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