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Lesson Title: Getting Off the Ground into the "Smart Skies"!
May 11, 2012

Unit: Engineering - Aeronautics

Grade Levels: 5-9

Connection To Curriculum: Forces and Motion, and Ratio and Proportion

Teacher Prep Time: 1 hour

Lesson Time Needed: 3 hours

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: air traffic control, simulator, computer-based


Teacher Materials
Teacher Quick Start Guide "LineUp With Math Educator Guide"
Teacher Guide for six selected Problem Set with answers to all worksheets and solutions
Complete set of solutions to all ATC Simulator problems
Student Materials (per two-student group)
Movie clips (viewed online or downloaded by student)
ATC Simulator (viewed online or downloaded by student)
Student Workbook for selected problem sets (#1 to #6 as needed)
Simulator Quick Start Guide

This lesson is an entirely computer-based online mathematics-focused introduction into the Air Traffic Control, or ATC, system. Using the Smart Skies: Line Up With Math activity, students learn how NASA engineers use ATC simulations to make flying safer and more efficient.

Students will:
• Use the vocabulary of ATC and introduce them to the national airspace system.
• Apply a variety of problem-solving approaches, tools, skills and experiences in the context of challenging real-world problems.

First page of Getting Off The Ground Into the Smart Skies!

Lesson Guide
Getting Off the Ground into the Smart Skies! Lesson
[76KB PDF file]



Lesson Activities and Sequence
LineUp With Math Educator Guide
The listed sequence leads the students into learning about the ATC systems and how math, science and technology can be used to sequence different aircraft to ensure flight safety.

Each problem set is a complete lesson with student and teacher materials.

  1. Problem Set A: Students learn the basics of the airspace system and are introduced to the environment of real ATC.
  2. Problem Sets B and C: Students use the interactive ATC Simulator and the workbook to analyze conflicts between two or three planes and to resolve the conflicts by rerouting.
  3. Problem Set D: The workbook introduces students to the basic effects of differences in speed.
  4. Problem Sets E and F: Students use the interactive ATC Simulator and the workbooks to analyze conflicts between two or three planes and to resolve the conflicts by changing plane speed.


Keywords: air traffic control, simulator, computer-based

Related Videos
FlyBy Math™ consists of five air traffic control problems that address the safe separation of two planes. In each problem, students do the following:
- Conduct an experiment that simulates the airplane scenario.
- Use guided paper-and-pencil activities to determine the number of seconds each plane takes to travel a given distance along a jet route.
› View video

LineUp With Math™ consists of six problem sets. Each enables students to explore and apply decision-making and proportional reasoning skills to resolve distance-rate-time conflicts in realistic air traffic control problems.

To solve the problems, students use a Web-based interactive air traffic control simulator that represents an air traffic controller's screen. The accompanying workbooks provide the underlying mathematics and strategies to enable students to optimize their solutions.
› View video

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.
Physical Science
• Motions and forces.
Science in Person and Social Perspectives
• Risks and benefits.
• Science and technology in society.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Ratios and Proportional Relationships
• Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems.
Expressions and Equations
• Understand the connections between proportional relationships, lines and linear equations.
• Solve real-life and mathematical problems involving angle measure, area, surface area and volume.


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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator