Weather is vital to a safe flight and up to date weather information is
given to a pilot at the beginning of every flight. Certain terminology is
used when describing cloud cover. The weather person at a local airport
estimates the fraction of the sky that is covered by clouds then attaches
the corresponding label before passing this information on to other airports.
The operations agent is responsible for getting the weather information
to the pilot. An understanding of simple fractions and estimation in needed
to make accurate descriptions of cloud cover. In this activity students
learn the 4 types of cloud cover, their fractional component and then assign
the correct type of cloud cover to given samples of sky. Determination of
cloud cover is done two ways, using a grid and estimating.
NCTM Process Standards
- Standard 1: Mathematics as Problem-Solving
- Standard 3: Mathematics as Reasoning
- Standard 4: Mathematical Connections
NCTM Content Standards
- Standard 5: Estimation
- Standard 9: Geometry and Spatial Sense
- Standard 12: Fractions and Decimals
- Standard 13: Patterns and Relationships
- Instruments and Navigation
- Students will learn the types and definitions of 4 types of cloud cover
and their fractional components: clear, overcast, scattered, or broken.
- Given a fraction amount of cloud cover, students will assign the corresponding
cloud cover label.
- Given a sky with a grid placed over it, students will assign a fraction
value to the amount of cloud cover present, after counting the number of squares
- Given a sky with clouds present, students will estimate the fraction
of the sky that is covered with clouds.
- Given a weather description with an abbreviated cloud cover label, student will choose the corresponding sky that matches.
- Exposure to circle fractions
- Sequencing fractions
- Beginning area estimation
- cloud cover - the amount of clouds in the sky
- grids - a pattern of regularly spaced horizontal and vertical lines
forming squares on a sample of sky used as a reference for locating cloud
- estimation - approximate calculation of the amount, extent, magnitude,
position, or value of something
- clear - the sky has no clouds or clouds cover less than 1/10 of the
- scattered - an average of 1/10 to 5/10 or one half of the sky is covered
- overcast - more than 9/10 of the sky is covered with clouds
- broken - an average of 5/10 to 9/10 of the sky is covered with clouds
Pencil, paper, calculator, MathPad by IntelliTools
- Explore different weather sites on line and gather weather information from different cities around the country. Create a daily peek of the weather cross country by placing sky samples corresponding to cloud cover from each city and place these sky samples on a map of the United States.
- Explore sites on line or use other resource materials (e.g, interview an airline employee) to find out how pilots land if the sky is overcast and they cannot see the airport.
- Have students create their own sky samples with cloud cover. Students should then trade these samples with each other and provide estimation results for each others' samples. To check estimation, students should create their own grid layouts, different from the grid layout given in the activity.
These web pages offer information about weather. The first four are also included in a "Pie in the Sky: Weather Sites" page in the group activity:
WeatherNet - teacher and kid site
Weather Dude - great site for kids!
NBC4 WeatherNet4 - Really Cool!
McKinley Academy of Technology, Weather Report
Michigan State University Weather Browser
Universitiy of Michigan, The Weather Underground: Curriculum
How Things Work--Flight. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Publishing, 1990
March, Carol. Choosing An Airline Career. Denver: Capri Publishing Company, 1992
CD-ROM Adventures in Flight - Addison Wesley