Quantitative Skills > Teaching Resources > Activities > The Floating Lithosphere - Cross Section of North America

The Floating Lithosphere - Cross Section of North America

University of South Florida
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Sep 5, 2006


In this module, students calculate the pressure at the depth of compensation along a cross section of North America. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the third in a set of three modules dealing with isostasy.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

This module was designed to be used in an undergraduate mathematical geology class where students are asked to look at geological questions mathematically and may spend more time on the math than on the geology.

Teaching Notes and Tips

These modules were developed as essentially self-paced, take-home lab assignments. Students are supposed to work through the modules, slide by slide, building their own worksheets as they go along, taking note of instructions and prompts, hints, and queries.

Students must have access to computers equipped with a spreadsheet program such as Excel.

Teaching Materials

This module is one of several developed by Dr. Vacher. The module presentation can be found at The Floating Lithosphere

The Powerpoint file is considered to be the student version. There are also presenter's notes.


The easiest way to test student work on this module is to ask students to hand in a copy of their worksheets starting with a different set of input data. The module also ends with homework assignment questions.

References and Resources

Polya, 1957

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Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Structural Geology, Tectonics, Structural Geology:Structural Visualizations
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Special Interest: Quantitative
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16), College Lower (13-14)
Quantitative Skills: Problem Solving, Probability and Statistics:Data Trends:Curve Fitting/Regression, Arithmetic/Computation
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Topics: Solid Earth
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Plate Tectonics, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Structural Geology

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