Use Google Maps Mashups in K-12 Education

Transform maps from static to fantastic.

Google's Planimeters measure geographical areas.

Mashup? What's a mashup? Well, Wikipedia defines the term mashup as "a Web site or Web application that combines content from more than one source." When people combine Google Maps with other content, the result is a "Google Maps Mashup" — a combination of map and other relevant information.

Need to know how to get from 96th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights? The NYC Interactive Transit Map at doesn't just tell you-it shows you, by combining transit information with a map. Some creative folks have been making Google Maps Mashups that have lots of potential for K-12 education.

The Gmaps Pedometer, for example, can be used to visually map a walking route. The site updates the distance as you add more locations. From 96th Street and 1st Avenue across Central Park to 97th Street and Riverside Drive in Manhattan is 1.8 miles. You can even add a calorie counter. Suggested activities: Have your students estimate a distance (for example, from school to home), and use Gmaps Pedometer to check their estimate. For physical education, have students plan a walking program for exercise, then see how many calories their suggested program will burn.

The Google Planimeter measures areas. Click on three points on a map, and the Planimeter connects them in a triangle and computes the area. Click on additional points and the triangle expands into a many-sided polygon; the program recomputes the area. Suggested activities: Have students estimate the area of a geographical region; plot many points to obtain increasingly accurate estimates. For example, a lake in New York state is first bounded by using 3 points, then by 19 for increased accuracy.

If your class is studying a more populated area, combine this data with demographic data for further study.

With YourGMap you can identify your own choice of locations, add comments, create a map of them, and make it available on the Internet. Suggested activities: For elementary school students, create a tour of the neighborhood. Identify the school, grocery store, firehouse, park, and so on. You can even use the Google maps satellite view to see the actual buildings.

Studying Earth Science? Earthquakes in the Last Week uses Google Maps with data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey to show earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in the past seven days. Suggested activities: Study patterns, then correlate them with plate tectonics and faults. Click the map markers for further information regarding the specific quake.

Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and regular columnist for Technology & Learning.