Tacoma Narrows Bridge lesson plans - Math - Mathematics of scale

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.


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
Tacoma Narrows (1950) 5,979 feet
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:

"Span Stats"—Statistical Profile of the 1940 Narrows Bridge


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:

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.