New York City Delights: The Taxi Cab

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

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


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. Learn details about our Taxi 07 program.

National Standards

Standard 1. Level III. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
5. Uses content, style, and structure (e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to entertain, to influence, to inform)
Standard 7. Level III. 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of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; directions; essays; primary source historical documents, including letters and diaries; print media, including editorials, news stories, periodicals, and magazines; consumer, workplace, and public documents, including catalogs, technical directions, procedures, and bus routes)
3. Summarizes and paraphrases information in texts (e.g., arranges information in chronological, logical, or sequential order; conveys main ideas, critical details, and underlying meaning; uses own words or quoted materials; preserves author's perspective and voice)
4. Uses new information to adjust and extend personal knowledge base

Standard 4. Level III. Gathers and uses information for research purposes
3. Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics (e.g., magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, schedules, journals, phone directories, globes, atlases, almanacs, technological sources) 

Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level III. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
6. Makes oral presentations to the class (e.g., uses notes and outlines; uses organizational pattern that includes preview, introduction, body, transitions, conclusion; uses a clear point of view; uses evidence and arguments to support opinions; uses visual media) 
Standard 3. Level III. Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation
1. Adds, subtracts, multiplies, and divides integers, and rational numbers
6. Uses proportional reasoning to solve mathematical and real-world problems (e.g., involving equivalent fractions, equal ratios, constant rate of change, proportions, percents) 
Arts & Communication
Standard 3. Uses critical and creative thinking in various arts and communication settings
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


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.

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.



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.
  1. I use the idea of a taxi ride all of the time in my classroom! When dealing with linear relationships, a taxi ride makes perfect sense. There is a fixed cost as well as a constant pay by the mile fee. This lesson could play beautifully into the opening to a linear unit. Even more, it could be the opening to linear unit as well as a systems of linear equations unit. Using your “Activity Three: Taxis around the World” idea, students could compare different prices to cab rides all over the world; traveling the same distance to see where the rides are the cheapest.

    I think this lesson and the material that could be created from the idea of this lesson could be a amazing hook for students to see linear relationships in action. This lesson also hits the standards you intended on (computational skills). My only question is how is this a design based lesson. Yes, students will be comparing different cab costs for different destinations and in that, will have to make conclusions about different trips. However, were does the design process take place? What problem are students looking to solve? What is the “how might we…” question?

  2. This lesson does a good job in addressing various components to learning: communication, research, collaboration, creativity, problem- solving in a relevant context. To address the design-based aspect, perhaps having students to identify problems and perhaps giving those problems to be solved by other groups could be interesting. They could even develop the How might we question for the groups to solve.

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