New York City Delights: The Taxi Cab

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, October 14, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute lesson plans


In this activity students will learn about the role of taxis in New York City life. Students will conduct collaborative research to learn about the history of taxis, investigate New York City destinations, compute cab fares, and create and design a plan for a billboard featuring the taxicab.

National Standards

Standard 1. Level IV. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Standard 7. Level IV. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps) Standard 4. Level IV. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 2. Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level IV. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 4. Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade) 5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources)
Standard 3. Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation
Arts & Communication
Standard 3. Level IV. Uses critical and creative thinking in various arts and communication settings 8. Knows ways in which different sources are used to produce art forms (e.g., personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings; real and imaginary sources; nature and the constructed environment; experimentation; events; the human senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Thinking & Reasoning
Standard 5. Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques

Common Core Standards

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


Students will do the following:
  • conduct Internet research
  • evaluate and analyze information from multiple information sources
  • perform computations
  • engage in active problem solving
  • create a design for a billboard
  • create an oral presentation


  • "Taxi Billboard Design" handout
  • Internet websites


  • computer with Internet access
  • drawing or construction paper
  • markers, crayons, pencils
  • stapler, scissors, glue


Building Background
Activity One: Take a Look! Taxis in New York City
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with background information about taxis. 1. As a class, browse the following websites that contain images of taxicabs:
Activity Two: Do the Math: Hail a Cab & Take a Trip
The purpose of this activity is for students to compute cab fares as they plan an imaginary journey in New York City.1. Share the following excerpt with your students: Manhattan's official licensed cabs are painted bright yellow. When the numbers on the sign on the top of the cab are lit, it's available. When no lights are lit, the cab is occupied. To hail a cab, stand in the street and stick out your arm. It's best to hail a cab on a street where traffic is moving in the direction you want to go, rather than making the cab turn around. Occasionally a cab which is off duty (the words "Off" and "Duty" will be lit on the rooftop sign) may pull over. Tell the driver where you want to go before you get in the cab. If your destination is on his way, he may take you, but he's not under any obligation to do so. Tip cabbies at least a buck or 15 percent, whichever amount is more. And remember that hailing a cab between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. is very difficult -- everyone seems to be on the move during this time, so plan accordingly.
Source: 2. Divide the class into small groups. Tell the students that they are going to plan an imaginary trip to several New York destinations using a taxicab. Each group must do the following: Choose three New York City destinations. Some excellent resources to use include the following:
Use to find the distance between the three destinations.Compute the cab fare that will be required to complete their journey using information from the following websites:
  3. Ask each group to share its work with the entire class.
Steps for Learning Big Ideas/Big Designs
The purpose of this activity is to help students create a design for a billboard highlighting New York City taxicabs. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the "Taxi Billboard Design" handout. 2. Have the students present their work to their classmates. Invite others in the school and community to view students' designs if possible. 3. Lead a class discussion on how the various designs captured different elements of the New York City taxicab experience.


Reflection Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric. -How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem. Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate the effectiveness of your presentation. Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated your ideas. Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers. Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your creativity.
Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Activity One: Cab Spotting
Ask your students to visit the following websites that describe a cab spotting resource in San Francisco and then write a brief paragraph explaining the resource. These may be viewed at the following websites:
Activity Two: Changes to the Taxicab
Have your students visit the following websites to learn about changes to the taxi:
Ask the students to share what they learn with their classmates.
Activity Three: Taxis around the World
Ask your students to conduct research on taxis around the world. Compile a class collection of photographs based on students' research.
Compare the differences and similarities between New York City taxis and other taxis.

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