Drive or Fly?

Due to two snow days, I had to axe a “Leaving on a Jet Plane” project [full credit to Dan Meyer] where students were going to model flight cost as a function of distance from Detroit. Pretty simple wrap up to linear equations. Now, however, I’m pretty excited it got pushed back since our next stop is systems…

I’m hoping the quick visual I put together will provide a bit of spark and interest. Which circle represents the area where it is cheaper to drive than it is to fly?


So now, instead of simply plotting flight cost vs. distance, we’ll also plot driving cost vs. distance, helping us find the answer to the question above. A couple plots, a couple lines of best fit, an intersection representing a break even point and YES YOU CAN USE THIS IN REAL LIFE.

UPDATE #1: Here’s the lab that was whipped together.

Fly or Drive Lab – Word Doc

UPDATE #2:  Next year –

The biggest problem I had was with the data collection. This was a class of 13 8th graders and 10 9th graders. It took much longer to collect data (flight cost & gas cost to each city) than needed. I like having that research in there, but it became far too tedious and drew attention away from what we should have been focusing on. Plus, kids that were absent (whether physically or mentally…) while we walked through how to research the costs fell far behind.

Next year I will crowdsource the data collection. Each student picks one city. Each student researches the cost to fly to their single city and the cost to drive to their single city. I would expect this takes about 15-20 minutes. As they get their data, I’m throwing it into a table that is projected up on the board. Everyone uses the same data, which also allows me to more easily check the lab and make sure the data does what I want (the models intersect at a reasonable distance).