SISL > 2012 Sustainability in Math Workshop > Activities > Hybrid Vehicles: Are They Worth It?

Hybrid Vehicles: Are They Worth It?

This page was authored by Lori Carmack, Salisbury University.
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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

This page first made public: Jul 15, 2015


In this project, students use elementary statistics to collect and analyze data related to gasoline costs in the U.S. They then address the open-ended question of whether it is cost-effective to purchase a hybrid vehicle. Finally, students are asked to consider the broader implications of purchasing a hybrid vehicle.

Learning Goals

  • Ideally, the project encourages students to reflect on fuel consumption, costs, and vehicle emissions.
  • Prepares students to build effective coalitions
  • Engages students in civil discourse/ communications that lead to more effective decisions
  • It advances student literacy around sustainability issues.
  • Encourages self-reflection and personal development of their voice for solving societal challenges
  • Promote creative visioning around sustainable futures
  • This activity emphasizes data analysis, computation, and critical thinking skills.

Context for Use

This activity is intended for use in a college level quantitative reasoning or liberal arts mathematics course, although it could also be used in a high school setting. The activity is most appropriate as a small group project completed over several days outside of class. Necessary mathematical skills include elementary descriptive statistics and basic computation. Reasoning skills are also required since students are asked to address open-ended questions. To complete the project, students need data analysis software and internet access.

Description and Teaching Materials

In this project, students use the internet to find the average price of gasoline in each state. They then use Excel (or other data analysis software) and elementary descriptive statistics to analyze the data. Students are then asked to research hybrid vehicles and determine whether purchasing a new hybrid vehicle is more cost effective than purchasing a new vehicle of the same make and model that runs solely on gasoline. In other words, students address the open-ended question of whether the money saved on using less gasoline would compensate over the years for the higher purchase price of the hybrid model. Finally, students are asked to consider the broader question of whether hybrid vehicles are "worth" the extra monetary cost. Students are expected to present their computations and results via a visual display.

Gasoline and Hybrid Vehicle Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Jul13 15)

Teaching Notes and Tips

A useful warm-up activity for this project is to compute the break-even point on the purchase of an LED or CFL light bulb.


Students beforehand are given a specific grading rubric for the project. In addition to presenting project results in class in the form of a visual display, students are asked to submit their visual display.

References and Resources