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Age Range: 11-14
Duration: 60 or more mins
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

Comparing the carbon footprint of transportation

A maths-based challenge to calculate the journey times and carbon footprint of different methods of travel

Embarking on a journey is more than just reaching a destination; it’s a decision that intricately weaves together time efficiency and environmental impact.

In this fun maths challenge designed for KS3, learners will look at various alternative transport methods and calculate journey times and their carbon footprints. As well as testing students’ mathematical abilities, this activity highlights the issue of sustainable travel and the effects of some modes of transport on the environment.

Activity: Compare the carbon footprint of transportation

This activity is one of a series of resources designed in conjunction with Network Rail to develop understanding and skills in key maths, science, and engineering concepts.

The carbon footprint data in the presentation is derived from passenger-specific figures published by BEIS/Defra Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors 2019.

Transportation speeds are approximations based on typical values obtained from commonly used search engines. Any statistical or speed-related data used in this activity serves its sole purpose within the activity and may not accurately mirror current real-world conditions. Variability might arise due to seasonal changes, environmental conditions, or legal constraints.

When utilising the activity sheet, students can construct tables for each journey, showcasing their findings (as depicted on the sheet). For air travel, a buffer of 3 hours should be allotted to account for check-in, security procedures, and boarding at airports.

To add an additional layer of complexity, transit times to airports and railway stations could be incorporated.

The presentation includes supplementary slides for those who prefer kilometres instead of miles.

How long will this activity take?

This activity will take approximately 50 - 70 minutes to complete.

The engineering context

Engineers must understand how products impact the environment; This pertains not only to modes of transportation but also encompasses the production of new items. They can use this knowledge to balance the environmental impact with the function carried out by the product. Engineers can also develop new or improved

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity, students will be able to solve a contextual problem using division and multiplication, and they will understand how to calculate journey times and the carbon footprint for alternative modes of transport.

What you will need

  • Projector/Whiteboard
  • Pens, pencils and paper
  • Calculators

Download the free activity sheet below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable so that you can tailor them to your students and your schools’ needs.

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, helpful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Please share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation

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