Distance/Rate/Time Problems: Smart Skies™
Smart Skies: Line Up With Math

Featured Lesson(s)

Line Up With Math

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Essential Question

How do air traffic controllers apply proportional reasoning to make decisions and resolve conflicts to “line up” airplanes safely, with proper spacing, at a given intersection of routes?


Smart Skies™ Line-up with Math consists of six air traffic control problems. Each examines a different distance-rate-time scenario that an air traffic controller might encounter. Students use a computer-based air traffic control simulator to enact the solution to the problem. This featured lesson engages students in real-life applications of mathematics. Each air traffic control problem features a student workbook, videos and computer-based lessons.

Additional Resources

  Classroom Resources:


  • Videos for Students:
    • What Is Smart Skies™?: View this short promo about Smart Skies™.  
    • 24 Hours of Flight: Video: shows amount of air travel in a 24-hour period.  
    • Welcome to Line-Up With Math: Students are introduced to the activity highlighting the use of an air traffic control simulator to solve the problems.  
    • Introduction to the Simulator: Video explains the role of an air traffic controller. The simulator with its parts and functions are introduced.  
    • Experiment With Route and Speed Change: Example of how you can change the route and speed of the aircraft to help solve the problem by using the simulator.  
    • Fine Tune the Solution: Introduction of the review button to view the solution to the problem. Looking at the review, we can see we need to make some additional changes.  
    • One Solution Using the Simulator: Video demonstrates the solving of the problem.  
    • The Mathematics of Speed Change: Illustrates how mathematics is used to solve the same problem. The problems can be solved in several different ways, but the student needs to decide what would be the best solution.  
    • More Than One Correct Answer: The problems can be solved in several different ways, but the student needs to decide what would be the best solution.  
    • Student Promo: Video illustrating the role of an air traffic controller with students playing the role using the simulator.  


  Related NASA Now Events:

  Connection to NASA:

  Extension Activities:

FlyBy Math: Five air traffic control problems that can be worked with paper and pencil or by experiment.

Professional Development

Live ePD

Click here to find the live web seminars scheduled for this featured lesson. Web seminars are led remotely by NASA subject matter experts and education specialists.

Access to video gallery

Click here to access the teacher video collection for this featured lesson.

Lesson Information

Subject(s) Covered:

 • Algebra

Topic(s) Covered:

 Variable substitution/distance-rate-time problems

Activity Type:


Grade Level:


Instructional Objective:

 Students use mathematical reasoning and scientific inquiry to investigate and solve distance-rate-time problems based on real-life scenarios.

Time to Complete the Activity:

 45 minutes per problem

  Materials Needed:

  • Computer connected to the Internet
    Help: www.atcsim.nasa.gov/
  • Classroom video projector
  • Student worksheets

   National Content Standards: