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Literature Connection:

The Outsiders by: S. E. Hinton

Mathematical Strand:



Students will estimate the distance in miles between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Syracuse, New York. They will also gather data on gangs in both areas. This activity is a supplement to the novel study over THE OUTSIDERS

Grade Level:


Lesson created by:

Kristine Blumer, Kasson Road School
Addapted from: Shelley Faerber, Susan B. Anthony Middle School, Manhattan, KS.

Lesson Description:


  • Map, pre-determined web sites or reference material, graph paper

1. Launching the lesson:

  2. Discuss the setting for the novel (Tulsa, Oklahoma) and perceived similarities and differences between the two areas (Tulsa and Syracuse). Also discuss the two gangs discussed in the novel—the SOCS and the GREASERS. Discuss perceived similarities and differences in gang related activities in both areas (Tulsa and Syracuse).

2. Developing the lesson—

  1. Before looking at a map, take estimations from students as to the distance (in miles) between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Syracuse, NY. List answers.
  2. Looking at a map without distance markers, as a class, do any of the estimations change? Take new estimations. List on board.
  3. In pairs, have students calculate the actual mileage between Tulsa and Syracuse using a road atlas. Calculate miles based on highway mileage markings. Share answers with class. List on board.
  4. Hand out (or have students actually research this information) information regarding gang related activity in both cities. (This information can be located from government records—public information)
  5. In pairs have the students graph one piece of significant data that communicates a similarity or difference between the two cities and the gang related activity.

3. Closure/Discussion/Elaboration—

  1. Discuss how the estimations changed each time the class volunteered answers. Why? Have one of the pairs explain how they determined the actual driving distance in miles.
  2. Discuss whether knowledge of this distance makes Tulsa seem close or far away. How does this information help you determine if the events in this story could have happened in Manhattan?
  3. Discuss the two gangs mentioned in the novel. Ask for volunteers to share the data they graphed. Why did they pick that piece of data and what does it tell us about the two cities regarding gang related activities?