Natural Disaster Planning and Equations

Middle School and High School Teacher

For a natural disaster there are many variables to be accounted for when planning help for an area.  This lesson will give students the opportunity to create a natural disaster plan for a part of their country.

Grade Level: 10 - 12th

Subject: Math

Length of Time: About Three Class Periods

Featured Programs:
Sponsored School(s)

Common Core Alignment

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSN.Q.A.1 - Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSN.Q.A.2 - Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling.

Objectives & Outcomes

Using a review of numerous vital statistics and other aspects of a city or state, the students will be able to create equations with variables, to accurately create and plan for a natural disaster and the town’s recovery.

Materials Needed

Internet access or almanacs/resources with statistics of various cities, method to display results of their plans (Power Point, poster board, report, etc.)


Opening to Lesson

  • Show short video segments of natural disasters throughout the world, current and from the past. Display headlines from newspapers or magazines about natural disasters.
  • Allow students to share comments and opinions about the videos and articles.
  • Ask students: “Why do you think are some of the things that go through the mind of a person who survives a natural disaster?”  (After the earthquake, tornado, flooding, etc., ends.)
  • Display some of their responses, separately listing the needs (food, water, shelter, etc.) separately from other responses (family, pets, job, emotions, etc.).
  • Stress the seriousness and sincerity of all responses, and the effects on the survivors.

Body of Lesson


  • Ask the question: “What is the first thing you would do if you were in charge of the recovery and clean-up efforts following a natural disaster?”
  • Allow students to respond but do not record the information.
  • Ask students to create an equation to show how much water would be needed if all of you were trapped in the classroom for x number of days. Consider the other variables involved:  number of students, bottled-water sizes, cost, etc.
  • Agree to a final equation.

Guided Practice

  • Pair the students or allow them to choose a partner.
  • Introduce students to web sites, books, and other resources to use for research.
  • Assign one city to each pair of students.
  • Explain to them they will determine the needs for each city based on the magnitude of an earthquake. (Since this is a model, the city may be located anywhere.)
  • Ask students to give examples of a person’s needs and display their responses.
  • The students must also research past earthquakes to determine the various magnitudes relative to the damage and needs of a city.
  • The students will create equations to determine the approximate needs for an affected city: water, food, clothing, shelter (square footage), costs, rebuilding, and much more.
  • Remind students their planning models and equations must be viable options to be used by recovery teams before the disaster occurs.
  • Each pair of students will create a report, Power Point display, or other exhibition to display to the class showing how they would respond to the earthquake if they were in charge of recovery and clean-up.
  • During the presentation, peers will evaluate the effectiveness of the plan, thoroughness, and other aspects important to recovery. (Teacher will create a rubric for students to use.)

Independent Practice

  • Worksheet of related equations for students to solve in-class or for homework.


Following presentations, ask students what they learned from the project, how their thoughts changed, and if they feel it is possible to effectively prepare for a natural disaster before it occurs.

Sponsored Content

Assessment & Evaluation

Each pair of students will make a presentation to the class sharing the information and effectively communicating the model/natural disaster plan.

Modification & Differentiation

Students work alone or in larger groups.  Invite local city official(s) to be part of the audience for students to present their plans.  Use the city where the school is located.  Allow students to pick the city to use.  Each group does the same city for comparison purposes.  Invite media to be part of a mock “press conference” to ask questions to students.  Use other kinds of natural disasters instead of earthquakes only.

Related Lesson Plans

Charity Begins at School

Pairs of students will design, plan, and create an imaginary fundraiser for a charitable organization.

The Ideal Town

Based on research the students will design a small town with a pre-determined population, assuring there is enough living space, parking spaces, and a sufficient water supply.