Rated MPG for Confusion
Using Gas Mileage to Learn Graphing and Data Analysis Skills
Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis
University of Kansas
Lawrence High School
Science Department (Physics)
Bonner Springs High School
This case study follows a family’s dilemma about how to save money on gasoline. Should they keep their SUV and trade in their Corolla for a hybrid sedan? Going from 28 (Corolla) to 48 (Hybrid) miles per gallon (MPG) should really save money on gas. That’s a change of 20 MPG! Or, should they keep their Corolla and trade in their SUV for a minivan? The SUV gets about 13 MPG while the Minivan gets 17 MPG. Students learn how to analyze fuel efficiency in terms of “gallons per miles” driven instead of miles per gallon, and gain graphing and data analysis skills. An extension activity also relates fuel efficiency to greenhouse gas emissions. The case was developed for use in a high school general science course. It could be adapted for use in introductory physics, chemistry, algebra, or environmental science courses at the high school or college level.
- Practice dimensional analysis and mathematical calculations.
- Analyze data.
- Create graphs using graphing software programs.
- Practice interpreting inverse or in-direct graphs and direct or linear graphs.
KeywordsFuel efficiency; fuel economy; gasoline; gas emissions; gas mileage; graphs; graphing; graphing software; data analysis; dimensional analysis
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Subject HeadingsScience (General) Mathematics Physics Chemistry (General) Environmental Science
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