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Walking for Water (Math)

SUBJECTS Geography/History, Math, Social Studies
GRADE LEVEL Junior (4-6) / Intermediate (7-8)
PLEDGE 2 - Human Right to Water

Resources Needed:

  1. Image for Walking for Water from Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products by Stephen Leahy (see attachment)
  2. Printable data collection chart (see attachment at bottom of lesson)
  3. This lesson is best following the introductory lesson Walking for Water (Introduction)
  4. Background Information: The World Health Organization’s definition of what constitutes “reasonable access to water” is having a source of at least 20 litres (5 gallons) per person per day within 1 kilometre (0.6 mile) of the water user’s home.


  1. Tell students, We have learned that the average distance women in rural Africa and Asia walk to collect water is 10 000 steps / 6 km (3.6 miles), which takes an average of 6 hours a day. Now, let’s figure out how far and how long you walk each day to get water at school. You can organize the information using the attached chart.
  2. Have students measure their stride length (the average stride length of an adult is 0.75 m or 75 cm) and then calculate the distance in metres to the water fountain.


  1. Depending on the grade, you can use the following questions to guide your lesson. Stop the calculations at the level of your class. You can allow earlier finishers or students who need a challenge to go further with their thinking. Depending on the grade, students can use scientific notation or expanded form or powers of 10 to express the numbers. Have students use the information collected in the previous Introductory Lesson about how many steps taken on a return trip to the water fountain in order to answer the questions below. Use the stride length measurements from the Introduction. 
    • How many steps in a week? How many m/km? How many minutes/hours?
    • How many steps in a month? How many m/km in a month (use a 30 day month like April or June for simplicity)? How many hours in a month?
    • How many steps in a year? How many m/km in a year? How many hours in a year?
    • How many steps, km and hours in 10 years, 25 years, 50 years?
  2. Have students do the same calculations for a woman collecting water in rural Africa or Asia. Use the 10 000 steps, 6 km, and 6 hours data from the Introduction. The same chart can be used to organize the data.
  3. Have students compare how far they walk to get water and how far a woman collecting water in rural Africa or Asia has to walk in the same time period.

Follow Up Activities:

  1. Try some of the many lessons for The Water Princess by Susan Verde.