Lesson Plan for Student Road Trip Project: End of Year Math Project

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I first heard of this awesome project a few years ago when my oldest daughter was in Mrs. Matthew's 5th grade class.  She came home and told me, "I am the driver for our trip!"


Confusion written on my face, I wondered if I needed to call the school and find out what was happening over there!

Of course, within seconds (because 5th graders can't drive) she was telling me in a whirlwind of excitement about a new project they were starting for the end of the year. I love seeing my kids get excited about school and I really love and appreciate when teachers make learning hands-on. 

Like me, my kids are very social (that's a nice way of saying we get bored and have a hard time sitting still) and a year filled with seat work, tests and worksheets could just about kill me!

If you would like to incorporate this project into your class, I will be giving you a run-down on the details. You can tailor this project to fit your class and add other details by grade level. It is pa perfect end-of-year assignment when students and teachers have summer vacation on the brain. 

Working in groups is great but, as you know, some students may see it as a free ride, an easy A.... To avoid one student doing all the work, have students work together, but fill-in all their own worksheets, make daily personal journal entries about the trip and write a final overview of their own.


Students will learn how to:

1) research 

2) plan 

3) work together 

4) manage money/budget 

5) geography and develop map skills

6) use math skills practically 

7) work on writing skills.

I have this broken down into 5 days, allowing a good portion of the day to be spent researching, learning facts, budgeting, etc. 

If you would like to spread this out to take less of the day, that would also work. Add to this project any other ideas to make it your own.  Your students are going to love this!

  • Divide the class into small groups (3-4 students).
  • Determine how many points of interest you'd like students to see on the trip. Students will research each point and write about them in their journals.
  • Determine how many days the students have to travel round trip.
  • Give each group a budget. This budget includes all expenses (gas, food, lodging, shopping, entrance fees to parks, incidentals,etc.) Remember, you are only giving them a dollar amount. The goal is for them to figure it out.
  • Determine the dynamics of the travelers. IDEA: For fun, tell them they are traveling as a family and each family member is over 18 ( they like that).
  • Determine each group's type of car, mpg and gas price.
  • Have each student in the group start the project with a new notebook or a small 3-ring binder with lined paper. They will use this for notes, journaling each day as well as putting together a scrapbook of their trip.
  • Have several different restaurant menus that students can use. They will use these every time they stop at a restaurant along the way to determine what the cost of the meal is. You can have students bring in menus or print them from online.
  • Old magazines and postcards will be helpful.

Give each group a map to begin discussing where they want to go and if they have the funds to get there. Check out this website. It gives an overview and history of each state and some attractions students may want to visit on their drive. As a group, have students begin getting organized. 

Discuss as a group how many days they want to take getting to the destination. They may want to establish drivers, best way to handle travel funds, how many hours to drive per day, what attractions to see along the way. Each group will be different.

They will make different decisions and calculations. It is really fun to watch. Try and let students do most of this on their own, be there only as a guide and facilitator.

By the end of day one, students should have a destination picked out.  Use the school address as the starting and returning point. Have students write in their journals about how the day went, how they decided to manage the trip and worked things out.

Today have students pick points of interest along the way.  Today students will determine how many hours to drive, where to eat and sleep for the first 3 days of travel. They may begin to gather ideas for the rest of the trip.

As they are working out cost of hotel, gas, park admissions, etc. be sure they are logging all the information in their journals. Students may do work on computers at school and at home. Begin collecting pictures of places they visited; this will go in the scrapbook. Pictures can be from magazines, the internet or drawn by hand. 

Be sure students are logging costs and any equations they are using to calculate the budget,  cost of gas, etc. Be sure students are writing in their journals.  Have students send a postcard to grandma about their trip.

Have students either bring in a postcard to add to their journal or scrapbook or have them design and color their own. This is a good time to practice addressing a letter, as well as writing.

Day three is similar to day 2.  Today students will try to get through another 3 days of travel. You could tell the students that they got a flat tire on the road today, it set them back 2 hours and $200 dollars (or something similar). This will help them problem-solve and work on budgeting. 

By this day, students should be working well together. Make sure they are stopping at points of interest and doing research on places they have stopped, logging all math used in their journals--this will include the daily gas budget, food and lodging.

You will begin to notice the difference among groups at this point. Some may be very detailed, while others travel day-to-day.

On this day, have students make a journal entry of a funny story that happened along the way (of course they are making up a story, each one will be different). Students can also research the points of interest in more detail, if needed.

Today students will begin to wrap up the last days of travel. Make sure that they are putting together pictures found on the internet, magazines, or hand-drawn pictures from their trip and points of interest. 

Go over any last details, and make sure they used all of their budget on the trip. Finish journal entries, budgeting and the scrapbook.

Presentation day. Have each group present their vacation to the class. Read stories, tell about points of interest, show scrapbooks, take questions, etc.