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How Many Gallons Are in an Ocean?

Materials: calculator, two index cards

Work alone or in pairs.

The table shows various dimensions of the oceans, seas, and gulfs of the world.
 Name Area (Square Miles) Average Depth (Feet) Pacific Ocean 64,186,300 12,925 Atlantic Ocean 33,420,000 11,730 Indian Ocean 28,350,000 12,598 Arctic Ocean 5,105,700 3407 South China Sea 1,148,500 4802 Caribbean Sea 971,400 8448 Mediterranean Sea 969,100 4926 Bering Sea 873,000 4893 Gulf of Mexico 582,100 5297 Sea of Okhotsk 537,500 3192 Sea of Japan 391,100 5468 Hudson Bay 261,900 305 East China Sea 256,600 620 Andaman Sea 218,100 3667 Black Sea 196,100 3906 Red Sea 174,900 1764 North Sea 164,900 308 Baltic Sea 147,500 180 Yellow Sea 113,500 121 Persian Gulf 88,800 328 Gulf of California 59,100 2375
Source: The World Almanac

Procedure for the Activity

Step 1 An estimate for the volume of water in any of the bodies of water given in the table can be found by multiplying the area of the surface of the water by the average depth. However, note that the area is in square miles and the depth is in feet. The Yellow Sea has the least depth of the bodies of water given. Estimate the volume of the Yellow Sea in cubic feet. Express the answer in scientific notation and standard notation. You will need the fact that one mile is 5280 feet.
Step 2 Use your estimate from Step 1. How many gallons of water are in the Yellow Sea? Express the answer in scientific notation and standard notation. You will need the fact that one gallon is exactly 231 cubic inches.
Step 3 Select three more bodies of water from the table. Find the number of gallons of water in each body of water. Express the answer in scientific notation and standard notation.
Step 4 Suppose a swimming pool in the shape of a rectangular prism measures 25 feet long by 15 feet wide by 5 feet deep. If you emptied the Yellow Sea into swimming pools with these dimensions, how many pools could you fill with the water?

Wrapping Up the Activity

Write a problem using the table at the beginning of this activity. Write the problem on one of the index cards. Write the complete solution on the second index card. Exchange your problem with another student or group. Have the student or group check their solution using your solution index card.

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