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Are we alone, or is there life somewhere out there in the universe?

In this lesson, students use fraction multiplication to explore the Drake Equation, the formula astronomers use to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations that might exist "somewhere out there."

Students will

  • Understand the Drake Equation, as used to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations that might exist
  • Identify the different variables that make up the Drake Equation and explain what each represents
  • Given values for these variables, use fraction multiplication to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations
  • Understand how adjusting the values of each variable affects the outcome
  • Describe possible shortcomings of the Drake Equation

Before you begin

It will be helpful if students already know how to multiply a whole number by a fraction. However, the fractions that students will encounter in this lesson are relatively simple, e.g. 400 billion × (1/4), so a deep prior understanding of fraction multiplication is not necessary.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices

Shoutouts

Frank Drake, SETI, Vickie Kearn, Melissa Mortiz