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Arithmetic Operations


6th, 7th, 8th




100 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Calculate Your Own Carbon Footprint

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Apr 24, 2024
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In this lesson, students calculate their own carbon footprint using Peter Kalmus's methodology in his book Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students watch a short video on the climate crisis. Students engage in a brief discussion on the prompt "Do my individual actions matter?"

Step 2 - Investigate: Students calculate their own carbon footprints.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students engage in a discussion, reflecting on this activity and the importance of individual actions.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson features many math skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by rational numbers; estimation; conversion between metric and imperial units; and logic and reasoning skills.
  • Students manipulate data in a spreadsheet and create a pie chart using many different data points.
  • Students engage with many different units, including CO2e, CCF, kWh, and therms.
  • This lesson provides students with the opportunity to measure their own impact on the Earth. Students can reflect on their own impact and brainstorm ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Additional Prerequisites

  • You must be sensitive to your students if you choose to run this lesson. Be mindful of socioeconomic status in your classroom.
  • Students will most likely ask their families for certain data points, like electricity or fossil gas usage. Be sensitive to your students' families. Some families may not want to share this information with their child's teacher.
  • In most situations, it would be useful for students to have the option to share final numbers with the class. You do not have to make it mandatory.
  • This lesson was adapted from "Leaving Fossil Fuel" Chapter 9 from Peter Kalmus's book Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.


  • This lesson can be used as an extension, extra credit opportunity, or one option in a menu of choices.
  • If everyone feels comfortable, students can collaborate as they figure out their respective carbon footprints.
  • Students should use the glossary at the end of the Teacher Slideshow to help them understand new terms and concepts.
  • Students can use the 2nd and 3rd tabs in their spreadsheets to see finished examples. This is author Dan Castrigano's carbon footprint data from 2019-2020.
Scientist Notes

This lesson shows basic techniques to calculate individual carbon footprint. There are no contradictions in the data source or methods for calculating carbon footprint as indicated in this lesson. All the examples shown are valid estimations. This lesson has passed our science review and is suitable for classroom.


This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

Primary Standards

  • Mathematics
    • Expressions & Equations (6-8)
      • 7.EE.B.3 Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. For example: If a woman making $25 an hour gets a 10% raise, she will make an additional 1/10 of her salary an hour, or $2.50, for a new salary of $27.50. If you want to place a towel bar 9 3/4 inches long in the center of a door that is 27 1/2 inches wide, you will need to place the bar about 9 inches from each edge; this estimate can be used as a check on the exact computation.
    • The Number System (6-8)
      • 7.NS.A.3 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.

Supporting Standards

  • Mathematics
    • The Number System (6-8)
      • 7.NS.A.1 Apply and extend previous understandings of addition and subtraction to add and subtract rational numbers; represent addition and subtraction on a horizontal or vertical number line diagram.
      • 7.NS.A.2 Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division and of fractions to multiply and divide rational numbers.
      • 6.NS.B.2 With accuracy and efficiency, divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm.
      • 6.NS.B.3 With accuracy and efficiency, add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.

Note On Standards:

This lesson is aligned to SubjectToClimate standards. Review the aligned standards directly in the lesson plan document and teacher slideshow.

Discover more on SubjectToClimate.
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