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Everywhere we go in today’s media-saturated world, we are bombarded with advertising. Times Square in New York City, a place filled with scrolling and blinking signs, may be the epicenter of advertising overload. Our eyes have grown accustomed to this barrage, but how can we quantify just how overrun with advertising our landscape has become?

In this lesson, students compare what Times Square looked like in 1938 to what it looks like in 2015. They calculate the areas of irregularly shaped billboards, and describe how much of the visual field is occupied by advertisements. Then they can contend with how this ad growth might affect us and how we experience a public place like Times Square.

Students will

  • Find the area of polygons by decomposing into triangles and rectangles
  • Calculate what fraction the billboards represent of the whole visual plane
  • Compare the fractional areas in 1938 and 2015
  • Discuss how advertising affects our experience of a place like Times Square

Before you begin

Students should be able to measure lengths with a ruler and calculate the areas of rectangles and triangles. They should have an understanding of fractions as “part of a whole” and be able to compare fractions or decimals. Students do not need to be familiar with decomposing polygons to find their area as this lesson is meant as an introduction to that strategy.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


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