Lesson Plan

A Big-City Tour on the Coordinate Plane

Your students will learn about the coordinate plane by taking on the role of a city planner.
Kelly A.
Classroom teacher
Ladue Middle School
St. Louis, United States
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Students will be able to...

  • understand the construction of the coordinate plane, including the x-axis, y-axis, and origin
  • describe locations on the coordinate plane using ordered pairs
  • apply understanding of the coordinate plane and ordered pairs to a real-world context
Social Studies
Grades 5 – 6
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Preview + Connect

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Begin by asking your students the driving question: What kind of language do we use when we describe locations? Have students post their thoughts on an open Padlet or using the Question feature in Google Classroom (enabling comments is a great choice here, as it will allow students to support and build on each others’ responses). If your students are having trouble running with the big, broad concept, you might give one or more of these supporting questions to lead them:

  • Imagine you are giving someone directions to your house. What words would you use?
  • Imagine you’re describing where the state of Maine is on a map. What words would you use? What if you were describing the location of the state of Florida? What about California?

2 Direct Instruction

Walk your students through a “tour” of the coordinate plane. Be sure to check for understanding as you go along, so that students are absolutely clear on key terms, such as x-axis, y-axis, origin, and quadrant. Show students how we describe locations on the coordinate plane using ordered pairs. Using a tool like Nearpod can allow you to quickly gauge understanding and deliver instruction seamlessly. If you flip your classroom, Screencastify is an excellent option for recording your tour of the coordinate plane.

3 Practice

Have students practice naming and locating ordered pairs. You might do this with pencil and paper, providing individual or small-group support, or you could use a tech tool. Think Through Math is an excellent option here - students are given responsive questions that provide feedback and correction where necessary.

4 Apply + Extend

Explain to students that city planners use a version of a coordinate plane to create city maps. In Google Maps, have students investigate a street map of a large city. Manhattan in New York City is a fantastic location for a guided example, because it has an easily recognizable naming system and landmarks that many students are familiar with. Have students look for patterns in the names of streets, and connect those patterns to what they know about the coordinate plane. In Manhattan, “streets” run east-west across the x-axis, and “avenues” run north-south across the y-axis. How might you describe the location of the Empire State Building? What about the four corners of Central Park?


After your students clearly understand how the coordinate plane applies to city planning, you might let students work together in small groups to investigate another city they are interested in. It might be a location in another country, or your very own hometown. Students should try to answer the following questions:

  • What patterns do the street names follow in this city? How do they relate to the x-axis and the y-axis on the coordinate plane?
  • Where might the “origin” of your city be?
  • What are some major landmarks in your city? How could you describe their location on the “plane” of the map?

5 Share

Finally, have your students present what they've learned about the coordinate plane and how it applies to the job of a city planner. You can give guidance for presentations based on your own students' needs and how they've been working best throughout this lesson. Students might present individually, in pairs, or in small groups. They might present a series of annotated snapshots with a tool like Seesaw, a screencast with Screencastify, or a more traditional presentation deck with Haiku Deck. This step is totally open to you and your students! Encourage your class to explore options and talk about what tools could show what they've been learning in their own best way.