MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Vector Treasure Hunt

Vector Treasure Hunt

Beth Hoagland
Floodwood School
Floodwood, Minnesota
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Students work in groups to find a "treasure" using directions from a treasure map that has been torn into sections. The directions are written as vectors.

Learning Goals

Students should realize that vectors can be added up in any order to achieve the same final result.

Context for Use

This is an introductory activity that can be done to introduce the concept of vectors and the addition of vectors. It should take 10-20 minutes.

Subject: Physics:General Physics:Vector Algebra
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)

Description and Teaching Materials

Students are divided into groups, depending on the class size, of 3 or 4 students. Each group is given an envelope containing the pieces of a "Treasure Map" which has been ripped into pieces and a compass and measuring tape. Each piece of the map should have a vector direction (ex: 10m SE at 120 degrees;). The "map" should be prepared in such a way that the students cannot easily piece it together. Explain that some pieces are missing. Instruct students to locate the treasure using their pieces of the map.
Students should arrange the directions in various orders, so that no two groups locate the treasure using the same series of steps. The "Treasure" should contain enough individual prizes so that each group can earn a prize. (Pieces of candy, etc.)
After the activity is complete, have each group share the methods they used to locate the treasure. Discuss how it is possible for the directions to be followed in various orders. Follow with an introduction to vectors.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity can be done indoors or outside. The distances traveled and number of directions can vary.


Students may be asked to make a journal entry describing their procedures. Assessment of this activity can be included later when the activity is related more directly to the study of vectors.


9-12.II.E.2 Introduction to Forces of Nature

References and Resources