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Hurricanes in History:
Where, When, and How



  • Mathematics
  • Science


  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Students work in pairs or groups to interpret graphs containing historical data of hurricanes, and then answer questions that assess their understanding and their ability to analyze the data.


Students will
  • Interpret data displayed in a graph
  • Make inferences based on graphical data
  • Work efficiently with a partner or team.


hurricanes, graphs, environmental science

Materials Needed[shopmaterials]

  • computers access
  • Internet access
  • Pen and paper

Lesson Plan

Hurricanes impact millions of lives each year. Heighten student awareness of hurricanes and the damage they inflict while reviewing and improving students' graph interpretation skills.

Begin the lesson by reviewing what students know about hurricanes. If you'd like, use CNN's report on Hurricanes to ensure that students understand such basics as the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity and which areas are hit most often. Depending on the amount of time available for the lesson, students can investigate the site themselves and answer basic questions on its content, or you can project the site to the entire class and discuss it as a class.

Then discuss issues of population movement towards coastal areas, as well as the role that media plays in warning of approaching storms. Explain to students that they are going to work in pairs to compare past storms and then decide which storm was the most damaging, based on population changes and available means of communication.

Arrange students into pairs or small groups and assign each group or pair a coastal county on the Gulf of Mexico or along the eastern seaboard. Then

  • Have students go to NOAA's Population Tool. This interactive site provides historical data for storm strikes in coastal counties in the Gulf of Mexico and along the eastern seaboard. )
  • Tell students to use the drop down menus to choose their assigned state and county and click SUBMIT. A new window will pop up with a graph of storms that have hit that county during the past 100+ years.
  • Discuss with the entire class the various parts of the graph's legend. It can be a bit confusing at first.
  • Have students discuss with their partner or team questions about the graph (See suggested questions below) and then record their answers either with paper and pen or with a word processing program.
  • Have students turn in their work when complete.

Extension Activity:

If time permits, have pairs or groups share their information with their classmates, and then work together to create a larger picture of the types of hurricanes that hit various counties of the coastal United States.

Suggested Graph Questions
Questions for Understanding

  • How many total hurricanes struck your assigned county in the last century?
  • During which decade did the most hurricanes hit the county?
  • How many of those hurricanes were category 1-2?
  • How many hurricanes were category 3-5?
  • How many hurricanes were direct strikes vs. indirect strikes?
  • What is the difference between direct and indirect strikes?
  • How many of the hurricanes that struck your county moved from water to land (Conventional Landfall Storm)?
  • What was the population of your county as of 2000?
  • When did a hurricane last hit your county? Describe it (direct/indirect/ category?/conventional or exiting).
Questions for Analysis/Inference
  • Given all the information on the graph, which hurricane in your assigned county (give the year) was most damaging? Consider population, media, as well as hurricane data.
  • Using the information on the graph, describe the typical hurricane that hits your county (direct/indirect, conventional/exiting, category 1-2 or 3-5).
  • Considering the hurricane data on the graph, would you choose to live in that county? If you did live there, what precautions would you take (construction, location.)


Assess students on their
  • ability to work with a partner/group.
  • ability to complete the steps of the assignment (technology skills and time management)
  • Accuracy of information on completed work.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Lorrie Jackson

National Standards

MATHEMATICS: Data Analysis and Probability
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-DATA.6-8.1 Formulate Questions That Can Be Addressed With Data and Collect, Organize, and Display Relevant Data to Answer
NM-DATA.6-8.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
NM-DATA.6-8.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-DATA.9-12.1 Formulate Questions That Can Be Addressed With Data and Collect, Organize, and Display Relevant Data to Answer
NM-DATA.9-12.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
NM-DATA.9-12.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data

MATHEMATICS: Problem Solving

GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space > GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science