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MMS Math Guide

MMS Math Guide Cover
Exploring the MMS Mission

About this Guide:

This guide uses examples from the MMS Mission to introduce mathematics in a real-world context to fifth through eighth graders. It is meant to help students learn about math utilizing the NASA MMS mission and be able to produce artifacts that can be shared with their peers and with their families.

The main area of mathematics covered in this guide is geometry. The guide focuses on two-dimensional and three-dimensional geometry to assist students in developing spatial skills. There are also some activities that involve algebra and computational skills.

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The guide contains four lessons that cover multiple mathematics topics and address many National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and Common Core mathematics standards. Each lesson is self-contained and can be used alone or all four can be used together as a unit. If the lessons are used together as a unit the ultimate goal would be to have the students complete a final report that contains a section about each lesson and/or a final project of the students' choice described at the end of the guide. If all four lessons and the Project Summary are completed then the students will have an excellent means of sharing information about the MMS mission and a portfolio of work that can be used to show the students' abilities in several areas including mathematics, literacy, communication, collaboration, creativity, and self-direction.

A variety of supplementary math activities related to the MMS mission are also available in this Guide through a collaboration with SpaceMath@NASA. The problems serve as extensions to the primary Guide activities, and are appropriate for more advanced students. Students will be asked to perform specific calculations, solve simple equations, work with areas, percentages and basic concepts in rocket science. For additional mathematics resources visit


This guide was developed and produced using funding from the Education and Public Outreach program of the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission.

Several people from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and West Virginia University helped with testing, editing, and producing the lessons and materials. We thank them heartily:

  • Marjorie Darrah (Associate Professor of Mathematics at West Virginia University) was responsible for authoring the 5-8 grade levels portion of the guide. She developed authentic mathematic problems that MMS scientists and engineers face.
  • Sten Odenwald (Space Math PI) was responsible for delivering the 9-12 Space Math portion of the guide. His problems were written to serve as extensions to the primary Guide activities.
  • Mellissa Toothman (Middle School Math Teacher) worked closely with Marjorie Darrah to field test and ensure that the middle school activities and resources were user friendly and authentic.
  • Beth Barbier (Editor) provided hours of editing, consultation and rewriting to ensure consistency throughout the guide. She made it possible for us to make it through NASA’s product review with flying colors!
  • Troy Cline (MMS E/PO Mission Lead) produced the guide, provided content and ensured connections between the authors and NASA's MMS experts.

We would like to give a special thanks to Todd Ensign (NASA IV&V Educator Resource Center (ERC) Program Manager) and the wonderful teachers from West Virginia who tested each of the activities and provided feedback.

And last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank John Ensworth (IGES) and reviewers from NASA's Product Review for provide us the final comments, edits and suggestions.