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In this unit students explore movement and position concepts. They draw maps and write directions focusing on the use of right, left, up and down. They will be introduced to the concept of North, South, East, and West and the use of these positions on maps.

Achievement Objectives:

Achievement Objective: GM2-5: Create and use simple maps to show position and direction.
AO elaboration and other teaching resources

Specific Learning Outcomes: 
  • give and follow directions using, left , right, up, down, North, South, East and West
  • draw and follow a path on a grid to show a route followed
  • label and follow legends on a map
Description of mathematics: 

Maps and plans are an important part of every day life. They enable us to find given towns and cities in a country and to find given roads in a town or city. They enable architects to conceive buildings and builders to build what the architect has created. Reading maps is a valuable skill that everyone should have.

This unit introduces the basic skills needed in map reading by getting the students to create a map for themselves and letting them interpret someone else’s map. These skills are the notions of direction, distance and legends and the conventions that are involved with them. All of these skills will be built on in future as the students are introduced to more complicated maps.

But this work also develops in another area that may not be obviously related to maps. We are thinking here of co-ordinate grids that are the basis of co-ordinate geometry. The cartesian co-ordinate system is invaluable in ‘mapping’ and interpreting relations and their properties. This system allows algebraic expressions to be ‘visualised’ and therefore understood more deeply. It also allowed the development of calculus, a tool that is used to describe movement of all kinds. Students in secondary school will be introduced to these topics and their applications.

Required Resource Materials: 
"Hansel and Gretel" or similar journey storybook. E.g. "Going on a Bear Hunt"
grid paper - squares large enough to colour/draw in
pens, pencils
compass showing N, S, E, W
maps with N, S, E, W drawn on them
map of an area at school, e.g. inside the classroom, the adventure playground
"Treasure" to bury, e.g. lollies

Session 1

In this session students are introduced to the concept of drawing a map. A path will be drawn onto squares on grid paper. This path will represent a journey. The concept of a legend on a map could also be introduced.

  1. Read "Hansel and Gretel" to the students (or a similar book that involves a journey, for example, "Going On A Bear Hunt").
  2. Discuss the journey that Hansel and Gretel took to get to the witch’s house.
    Where did Hansel and Gretel’s journey begin?
    Where did they go to next?
    How far do you think they travelled? Why do you think that?
    What direction do you think they travelled? Why do you think that?
  3. List the events of the story in sequence.
  4. Talk about the ways that the journey taken by Hansel and Gretel could be recorded.
  5. Introduce the concept /purpose of a map.
  6. Look at examples of maps.
  7. Introduce the idea of drawing a map of the path that Hansel and Gretel may have followed from their house to the witch’s house.
  8. Ask students to create a draft map of the journey.

Session 2

In this session students make a map by drawing the path that Hansel and Gretel may have followed to go to the witch’s house. This is done by colouring squares on the grid sheet. (The journey may have to be embellished depending on the version of the story read! Looking at a board game like snakes and ladders may also help to reinforce the concept.)

  1. Discuss the draft maps drawn by the students.
    How do we know which way to move on your map?
    Are our maps similar? In what ways?
    How are they different?
  2. Show the students the grid paper. Discuss and model the drawing of the map onto this paper. Suggested details may include:
  • Starting and finishing points on the paper, e.g. bottom left hand corner square for Hansel and Gretel’s house and the top right hand corner for the witch’s house.
  • Squares must connect to each other by a side, i.e. not just by a corner.
  • Encourage creativity.
  • Objects/obstacles that may be met along the way could be included on the map. E.g. trees, a bridge, rocks, a gate, etc. (These could either be directly drawn onto the map or a legend could be drawn and colour coded.)
  1. Let the students work in pairs or individually to create their map.
  2. As the students work, encourage them to use the language of direction, e.g. up, down, left and right to describe the maps they are drawing.
    Where do you start in your map?
    In which direction do I travel next?
    How far will I travel in that direction?
    If I couldn’t see your map what directions would you give me next?
  3. Ask students to describe their maps to a buddy using this language. This will include counting squares.

Session 3

In this session students will write directions for their path maps using the language of North South, East, and West or left, right, up and down - depending on their abilities.

  1. Display the maps of the paths drawn from Session 2.
  2. Talk about and discuss the use of maps. Identify N, S, E, W arrows on maps.
  3. Talk about the use of compasses to find people.
  4. Explain to the students that they have to write directions for their maps for someone else to follow. (Alternatively you could tell the students that the directions are for someone who is trying to rescue Hansel and Gretel.)
  5. Give the students their maps and get them to record a NSEW direction arrow at the top of the page. Model writing directions using NSEW as reference points starting at the first square.
  • Move 4 squares to the East.
  • Move 2 squares to the North.
  • Move 6 squares to the West, and so on.
  1. Ask the students write a list of directions using the language of NSEW. A counter could be used to help the tracking and accuracy of the directions.
  2. The directions should be recorded in list form as above. This will become a ‘direction card’.

Session 4

In this session students will be asked to follow each other’s direction cards to draw the paths from the original maps. The maps will then be compared to see if the directions have been recorded accurately.

  1. Students work in pairs to recreate the "paths" or maps of other students.
  2. The NSEW arrow and the starting point need to be clearly labelled on the otherwise blank sheet of grid paper.
  3. Students swap direction cards and then follow these directions (counters could be used to assist accuracy) to rescue Hansel and Gretel.
  4. Paths are drawn and then compared with the original map to see if the directions are accurate.

Session 5

In this session the students prepare and then use treasure maps. The treasure hunt is to be carried out in their environment at school using clearly identified boundaries. A map of the area is drawn with key features. The concept of a legend is to be introduced by asking students to identify and label key features marked on the map in the designated area.

  1. Discuss with the students the key features in the designated area, e.g. trees, seats, swing, classroom blocks, etc.
  2. Symbols for these features are discussed and then determined.
  3. The students work in pairs to create a map of the designated area using grid paper. Depending on the skills of the students you may have prepared the map with some of the key features.
  4. In pairs, the students decide on a place to "bury" their treasure and then prepare a direction list using a combination of key features and directionality language.
  5. Pebbles with names written on them could be left at each treasure point to mark who has taken the treasure to ensure the hunters only take their own designated treasure (this may limit poaching!)
  6. The students then swap maps and direction lists with another pair to find the treasure.