SIFMA Foundation
Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
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Americans drive more than 2.6 trillion miles per year, that’s 14,000 round trips to the sun! And for the most part, these vehicles are all running on gasoline. For many of us, we watch the price of gas as closely as the price of a gallon of milk, or the price of a movie ticket. This activity provides the students an opportunity to learn how gas prices are created and what are the components of the final price.
Ask the students the following question. What travels the distance of 14,000 round trips to the sun per year? Answer: American vehicles! Yep! No kidding. We drive more than 2.6 trillion miles per year in cars, trucks and SUVs. In our personal vehicles we fill up 115 billion gallons–yes, that's with a "B" — of gasoline and diesel fuel PER YEAR.
We all watch the prices at the local pumps as closely as the price of a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread or a Whopper sandwich, yet statistics report that our average fuel economy of cars and light trucks is at the lowest level since 1980! Well, just how did that happen? Before starting the lesson, have the students watch several gas stations and record gas prices on a daily basis. If the students can carry out this introductory activity after a weekend or a holiday, so much the better because students then will likely record price jumps.
The purpose of this lesson is for each student, individually or with a partner, to initiate the research process, record their findings, and utilize their findings to create a chart, a graph or other answer to one of the "Think About it" questions. Tell the students to feel free to explore the other web links to improve their understanding of the process of getting oil from the ground to their gas tank.
Use the U.S. Department of Energy Oil Refineries to learn more about the production of today's oil refineries.
Here are two mysteries for the students to solve:
The science teacher in your school might be interested in the work your students have done for this lesson. She or he might also be interested in knowing about some of the web sites.
Bureau of Transportation statistics contain household budgets. If students use the excel spreadsheets they can compute what percentage of average household income is allocated to gasoline. Dollar values are provided, but if the student enters =b16/b6, the cell returns percentages. In the case of the average household, 3% of annual income flows to the gas pump. Students could then carry that standard back to the department of energy’s gas mileage link and compare the cost of fueling a new vehicle of their choice.
"Pricing Gasoline & Oil Production"
Access this site to see explanatory graphics on gasoline prices and oil production.
Use one of the following questions to evaluate students' syntheses of their research:
Have the students answer the following questions:
SIFMA Foundation
Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Grades 3-5, 6-8
Grades K-2, 3-5
Grades K-2, 3-5