The Bridge as a Connection

Why were the
bridges built?

The Bridge as Machine

How did they
build the bridges?

The Bridge as Art

Why do the bridges
look like they do?
  People of the Bridge
Who designed
the bridges?

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Lesson Plans

Mathematics of Scale

Lesson Objectives

As a result of this lesson, students will be able to:

  1. Understand how mathematical ideas connect within mathematics to other subject areas and to real-life situations;
  2. Understand how to devise a plan to solve problems.
  3. Understand and apply the concept of scale.
  4. Understand the size relationships between the structures, ship and person listed below.

Time: One day or class period.

Materials Needed:

  • Graph paper, rulers, calculators, drawing paper, and colored pencils. Provide students with data table shown below:
Name Total Length
or Height
How many would fit on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge? (5,979 feet)
Tacoma Narrows (1950) 5,979 feet 1
Space Needle, Seattle 605 feet  
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco 6,450 feet  
Empire State Building, New York 1,453 feet  
Statue of Liberty, New York 305 feet  
Eiffel Tower, France 1,063 feet  
Titanic 885 feet  
Average 7th grader 5 feet

Lesson Steps

1. Using the figures provided above, calculate how many times the structures, person and ship listed will fit onto the Narrows Bridge.

2. Next calculate how many 5-foot students would fit on the 60-foot width of the bridge.

3. Create a scale drawing of the structures, person and ship listed above. Be creative!

Related links on this site:


Before the students get started working on their drawings, bring them together in a large group and ask them to help create a grading rubric. Ask them what attributes a top-quality drawing might have, and list those attributes on an overhead projector or white board. Possibilities might include:

  • Drawings are correctly scaled;
  • Drawings are accurate and well-crafted;
  • Presentation is clear and colorful;
  • Information is presented in a creative way;
  • Shows investment of time and effort;

Evaluate each attribute on an appropriate scale based on your own school’s grading system, for example giving points or letter grades. Include student evaluations also, if desired.


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