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Bridge lesson designed to teach math in

Technology Class Rooms

Brought To You By: Clayton Cox


1st Lesson Plan

2nd Power Point

3rd Bridge Report Example

4th Efficiency Testing Sheet

5th Scoring Guide For Bridge Building

6th Ratios Activity

Bridge lesson designed to teach math in technology
Brought To You By: Clayton Cox (STE.GENEVIEVE HIGH SCHOOL)

Bridge Building Math Infusion Lesson

Mathematics and Bridges Infusion Lesson: Students will learn how to plan, design,
calculate, and construct a model of a bridge. Find out how mathematical concepts of
ratio, proportion, and scale are implemented in the bridge building process.


1. Students build a model of a bridge and test the amount of weight it will support.
2. Students will be able to identify different types of bridges: suspension, arch, girder,
truss, cantilever, cable-stayed and moveable.
3. Students will learn materials can be positioned in specific patterns to form a stronger


compression the act of pressing or pushing

deck platform extending horizontally that often carries the roadway
engineer person who uses mathematical and scientific principles to design and construct
efficient structures and machines
girder a horizontal beam used for support
span portion of a bridge between two supports
stress the force acting on a body divided by the body's cross-sectional area. Force per
unit area.
tension the act of stretching or pulling
torsion the act of twisting
truss a rigid triangular framework


Engineers first create a blueprint and model of a bridge before they begin construction.
Models enable them to test the design of their bridges. Often, engineering companies
must compete to win a contract. For their presentations, they explain features of their
designs with blueprints and models.


graph paper
poster board (2' x 3')--one sheet per group
materials depend on how in depth of a project one will make it
Each group will design and build a freestanding bridge for a transportation system of the
future. First decide what type of transportation will cross the bridge and what type of
bridge you will build. Create a blueprint of the bridge on graph paper.
Using your blueprint, create a model of your bridge from the poster board. Each group is
only allowed one sheet of poster board, so measure carefully before you cut. The only
other materials you can use in the construction of your bridge are tape, glue, and string.
Present your bridge to the large group. Explain the rationale behind your design.
With all the groups together, test the bridges for length, height, and strength.


For the individual groups:

How did you come up with the initial design for your bridge?
Did your design change as you built your bridge?
Which geometric shapes did you use in your bridge? Why?
How does the strength of the bridge compare to the weight of the bridge?
Would you make any changes in the design of your bridge?

For the large group:

Which bridge was the longest? Tallest? Strongest? Heaviest? Why?
What materials do you envision being used in future bridges?
How can computers help design bridges?

Additional Activities:

*The longest cable suspension bridge is 1,410 meters (4,626'). Because its towers stand
exactly perpendicular to Earth's surface, they are 3.49 cm (1 3/8") out of parallel to allow
for the Earth's curvature. In a plane, two lines perpendicular to the same line are parallel.
Why does this change when you work with a curved surface? By the way, t he Akashi-
Kaikyo bridge in Japan, which will open in 1998, will be 1,990 meters (6,528' ) long!

*Test compression, tension, and torsion on different materials. First, take a strip of
Styrofoam 10 cm x 38 cm (4" x 15"). Ask someone to hold the ends so you can press
down gently on top to test compression. Hold each end and pull it apart to test tension.
Hold the two ends and twist to test torsion. What were the results of your tests? Find
materials that are strong in tension, weak in compression, and vice versa.

*Concrete supports many of our bridges and overpasses. How is it holding up? Ice and
road salt affect concrete bridges. Read "Concrete Solutions" by Gary Stix (Scientific
American, April 1993) and "Inside the lab and out, concrete is more than it's cracked up
to be" by Richard Wollomir (Smithsonian, January 1994). What are the pros and cons of
building bridges with concrete? Why is it better than steel? What is reinforced concrete?

*Invite a civil engineer to talk to your class about bridges. What types of bridges exist in
your area? Which mathematics and science courses did the engineer take to prepare for a
career in engineering? What tools do engineers use to design bridges and other



Physical Science:
* Properties And Changes Of Properties In Matter (5-8)
* Motions And Forces (5-8)
* Structure And Properties Of Matter (9-12)
* Motions And Forces (9-12)
Science As Inquiry:
* Abilities Necessary To Do Scientific Inquiry
Science and Technology:
* Understanding About Science and Technology


The Nature of Technology:
* Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and scope of technology.
* Students will develop an understanding of the core concepts of technology.
* Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and
the connections between technology and other fields of study.
* Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.
* Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.

*G1_01, G1_02, G1_04, CA_03, MA_02, SC_02

Burns, M. (1982) Math for smarty pants. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Clarke, D. (Ed.) (1979) The encyclopedia of how it's built. New York: A & W Publishers,
Corbett, S. (1978) Bridges. New York: Four Winds Press.
Spangenburg, R. (1991) The story of America's bridges. New York: Facts on File.
Stephens, J. (1976) Towers, bridges, and other structures. New York: Sterling Publishing
Stix, G. (1993, Apr) Concrete solutions. Scientific American, pp. 102-112.
TV Ontario videotape: Trussworthy. Landscape of Geometry series. TV Ontario: (800)
Whitney, C. (1983) Bridges. New York: Greenwich House.
Wollomir, R. (1994, Jan) Inside the lab and out, concrete is more than it's cracked up to
be. Smithsonian, pp. 22-31.