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Paleontological Research Institution


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - West



Climate Change Toolkit: Calculating the Rate of Change of Atmospheric CO2

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  • This activity involves drawing best-fit lines on a data graph and calculating the slopes of those lines to compare the rate of increase in CO2 concentrations over different time periods.
  • Students will learn about the global carbon cycle, the natural and human causes of CO2 emissions, seasonal variations in atmospheric concentrations, and the mathematical formula for calculating the slope of a line. 
Teaching Tips


  • This resource is technical but is written in a way that students will understand. 
  • The scientific writing at the beginning of the resource does an excellent job of setting up the activity and giving meaning to the mathematical work that comes later. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be able to read a graph and perform division problems.


  • Connections can be made to health and social studies classes by discussing the impacts of global warming on human health and well being.
  • This could be a great way to add in climate change and global warming topics into math classes.
  • Other related resources include this video about CO2 in the ice core record, this activity that lets students check their carbon footprint, and this interactive resource that allows students to see the biggest carbon drivers for specific places around the world.
Scientist Notes
This resource has students examine a 60-year carbon dioxide record in order to understand cyclical and seasonal patterns, as well as determine the overall trend. Students are tasked with determining the trend using various numerical methods and demonstrates how to determine if the rate of change is linear or nonlinear. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Expressions & Equations (6-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.EE.B.5 Graph proportional relationships, interpreting the unit rate as the slope of the graph. Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways. For example, compare a distance-time graph to a distance-time equation to determine which of two moving objects has greater speed.
  • Related Resources


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