Industrialization, Chemicals and Human Health - Math Lessons

Mathematics provides support in understanding parts per million, an important topic for understanding toxicity in human health. Other topics addressed in the math strand are: Cartesian coordinates, the metric system of measurement, biomagnification, population density, statistics, and data analysis.

Standards addressed by this unit are available on the individual lessons. To reach a lesson, just click on its title. To see connecting lessons in science, social studies, and language arts return to the ‘Cultures and Cycles’ unit page.

Each big idea is addressed by a learning cycle. At the completion of each big idea’s learning cycle students should be able to answer the corresponding question. At the end of the unit, the students will be able to apply their new scientific understanding to the Major Project where they provide a public service message that is checked in advance by local public health officials for accuracy.


Lesson Title & Description
Students will:
Class period & week
How Big is It?
Students review the units of the metric system, and practice estimating measures before actually converting between the two systems of measurement.
1. Convert from US units of measure to metric units of measure using unit analysis

2. Convert from metric units of measure to US units of measure using unit analysis

3. Determine whether their converted measurement is reasonable

Week 1

How Small is It?
Activities to help students visualize how small a concentration of one part per million represents by creating physical representations of one ppm. Parts per million is an important concept in toxicology.
1. Create a visual representation of what the concentration of one part per million means.
Week 2

Chernobyl 1
Students will review the process of unit analysis to convert between units of radioactivity and will examine the radiation released during the 10 days the fire at the power plant raged.

1. Apply unit analysis to convert between Curies (Ci) and Becquerels (Bq), which are units of radiation used to express the amount of radiation released.

2. Use half-life data of radioactive nuclide material to demonstrate the use of an exponential function, specifically calculating the amount of material remaining after a given period of time.

3. Covert from units of radiation curies or becquerels to units of mass to determine the scale of radioactive material release during the Chernobyl disaster.
Week 3

Chernobyl 2
Students explore proportion and scale to model the extent of human health impact as a result of the Chernobyl Incident.

1. Construct a scale model to represent the geographic regions around Chernobyl that were affected by radioactive fallout.

2. Using data from the Chernobyl event to detail on their scale model which areas where most contaminated.

3. Model the effect of the winds on the distribution of radioactive materials over their scale representation.

Week 3
The Portion is the Poison
Students will calculate the amount of everyday food products or liquids that would need to be consumed to become toxic.
1. Use unit analysis to check measurement computations
Week 5


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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