Math Lesson | 10 Towns that Changed America Curriculum

Math Lesson

Geometric Analysis

St. Augustine, FL (credit Barry Rabinowitz)


In this lesson, students will analyze an historic map of St. Augustine from a mathematical standpoint.

Grades: 6 – 12
Time: 1 period


This lesson addresses selected standards from the Common Core Standards for Mathematics

  • Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations.
    CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.EE.B.3. Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems with positive and negative rational numbers in any form, using tools strategically.


To prepare to teach this lesson, teachers should:



  • Copies of historic maps of St. Augustine
  • Pencils
  • Rulers
  • Copies of analysis worksheets

Period 1

  1. Show the St. Augustine segment of 10 Towns that Changed America to the class. Ask students to recall the “Laws of the Indies” from the segment. What were they? (They were really the first urban plan in the Americas, with 148 rules governing how the town should be laid out.) Ask students why they think these laws were important. (Answers will vary, but students should mention the order these laws brought to new towns, the ease of circulation, the ability to organize activities, the way the streets were narrow so as to maximize shade in a tropical climate, etc.)
  2. Tell students that today they are going to analyze the historic map of St. Augustine to see exactly how detailed the Spaniards got.
  3. Break students up into pairs. Distribute rulers, historic maps of St. Augustine, and analysis worksheets. (Each pair gets one map, but each student gets his or her own worksheet.)
  4. Students work through the questions on the worksheet to learn about the plan of St. Augustine.
  5. Students share their findings.

Additional Resources


  • Fairbanks, George R. The Spaniards in Florida.
  • Reps, John W. The Making of Urban America: A History of City Planning in the United States.
  • Kornwolf, James D. Architecture and Town Planning in Colonial North America.
  • Van Campen, J.T. St. Augustine: Florida’s Colonial Capital.

Online Sources

For Further Study

This Math lesson can be extended to other subjects or paired with other 10 Towns that Changed America lessons to create the following interdisciplinary connections:

  • English Language Arts: The Laws of the Indies featured 148 rules about how a town should be laid out. Devise your own urban planning code for a town of your own invention.
  • Art: Using the historic map as the base, students extrude it to draw a 3D, axonometric (seen from a 45 degree angle) view of the city.
  • Science: Using the dimensions of the streets that the students promulgated from this lesson, students may make a sun and shadow study to determine how much sun any of the streets in St. Augustine would get, and at what time of day.
  • Social Studies: Conduct Internet research about the archaeological digs at Fountain of Youth Park. Students may write a brief report describing one or more of the artifacts unearthed.