While I know this generation of students will simply pull out a phone to find a location, I still like to spend time teaching longitude, latitude, and other map skills. I want my students to have a mental map of the United States and the world in general. I want them to have a general sense of north and south, and I think the math aspect of calculating distances between two points and understanding the way maps work reinforces many thinking skills. My students were not really getting the coordinate grid system for longitude and latitude, so I compared it to the game of Battleship. Hands suddenly shot up. “I play that game!”
If you can play Battleship and pinpoint a location on a grid, you can understand longitude and latitude. I converted a U.S. map into Battleship size and attached it to Battleship game boards. My students agreed to bring more games from home, and we had a few game days in class. It was a hit (pun intended)!
How Can Students Practice Longitude and Latitude?
- Battleship game boards
- 6″ x 6″ maps with longitude and latitude lines (2 per game board). CLICK HERE for the map gameboard.
- a ballpoint pen to help poke holes
Setting Up the Game
- Print and cut U.S. maps and place them on the Battleship game boards. You need 2 copies of the map per board for a total of 4 maps per pair of players. To fix the maps to the game boards, we used 2-3 white pegs at the corners of the maps (the outermost hole on the Battleship grid board).
- Getting the pegs to poke through the paper is tricky. I poked holes in one game board and photocopied that game board with a dark piece of paper behind it. The copies showed faint hole marks that lined up with the grid underneath. Students could then take a ballpoint pen and gently poke through the paper, so they knew where the pegs should go. Because the Battleship grid is fixed, the holes do not line up exactly on the center of each state, so the students marked locations that were as close as possible to the center of a state.
Playing the Game
- Students placed 3 red pegs on their game board (the one that rests on the tabletop).
- One student begins by calling out a pair of coordinates that represents the location of a state. The opposing student names the state that they think the coordinates represent to confirm the location and announces “hit” or “miss”.
- The guess is logged with a white (miss) or red (hit) peg on the upright part of the game board for the person making the guess. The location is logged on the bottom game board for the student receiving the guess. White indicates a miss. If it is a hit, the red peg is already there, and the player can push an additional red peg on top of the first peg as a reminder that the location has been guessed.
- The students do not have the benefit of being able to hone in on a location they way you can when you play with the battleships that contain multiple pegs, so it is blind guessing, but they have to match coordinates with state names.
- They have to estimate numbers between given coordinates since the longitude and latitude lines count by 10s and 5s. Students need practice with figuring out the halfway mark between new numbers when you do NOT start at 0.
- The map I used had the postal state abbreviations, so the students were practicing state abbreviations too, which is something I consider to be a lifeskill.