Water Makes Us Happy!

For this week’s Math Investigation you are going to map the quickest route to the nearest body of water. Why? Because being around water makes us happy!

“Water is changing all the time, but it’s also fundamentally familiar. It seems to entertain our brains nicely with novelty plus a soothing, regular background. Envisage yourself being by the water: the sounds, the sights, the smells, all changing moment to moment yet essentially staying the same…the perfect recipe to trigger restful involuntary attention.” (Blue Mind, Wallace J. Nichols, p.155)

What does this mean? It means that being around water relaxes us, and slows down all the noise of everyday life. When we get into this mental place we are able to actually be more creative and inventive!

How close are you to the beach? A lake? A creek? A pond? Can you visit a body of water often enough to get those benefits? Maybe it is the beach on the coastside, or the near the levee in San Mateo? Maybe a walk around Water Dog Lake? That is up to you! Let’s map out a route to water?


Let’s use Serendipity School as our starting point, and Waterdog Lake as a our water destination:

Using Google Maps I put in the locations, and then I can see the route to take. Can I walk or ride my bike, or will I need to get into a car?

Here we can see the distance is 1.2 miles, and walking there would take about 25 minutes. That is definitely within walking distance.

Next I need to look at the scale:

Let’s look at the map again:

Using the scale and a ruler, I can see how far in feet I have traveled.

Here are the directions according to the map, and my approximate calculations –

Wait! What does approximate mean? “Close in value or amount, but not precise.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Okay, here we go:

  • East on Ponce St. for approximately 600 feet.
  • South on Cipriani St. for approx. 1200 ft.
  • Southeast on Continental Way for approx. 700 ft.
  • East on Lyall Way for approx. 600 ft.
  • South on Lake Road Trail for approx. 2,500 ft.
  • South on Water Dog Lake Loop Trail for approx. 300 ft.

Often when we are walking we think in terms of miles, half a mile, or are we there yet? So, at what point do I reach a 1/2 mile, or 1 mile, or halfway there?

Reference: How many feet in a mile? Look it up! Hey Google, how many feet in a mile?

Hey Google, how many feet in 1.2 miles?

Now, let’s do some Math. How many feet in half a mile?

Approximately where on the map/route arm I at 2,640 feet? Well, if I add the feet from Ponce St. to Continental Way, I am looking at 600 + 1200 = 1800. Not quite there. Let’s add on the feet to Lyall Way, 1800 + 700 = 2500.

2500 is close to 2640.

We can safely say that when we reach Lake Road Trail we have walked approximately half a mile.

Is that half way? No. Just half a mile. Half way is half of 6,336 feet (1.2 miles) = 3,168 feet.

So, if someone asked you where the half way point is, you could say: just past Lake Road Trail.

All of this makes me realize we should be taking more field trips to Water Dog Lake.


  • Find the address or place of the nearest body of water. Or, you can chose your favorite place.
  • Find the location on Google Maps.
  • Find the distance from your home to your water destination, and decide if you are going to walk or drive.
  • Map out the route using North, South, East and West directions, and approximate feet using the scale. Use a ruler to measure the scale and then apply that to the route.
  • Find the place on the map (city street) that is the half way point of your trip.

Being around water is important, so get out there? For now, enjoy these urchins at Point Lobos in Carmel, California.

{ Adults – Book recommendation: Blue Mind, The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do, by Wallace J. Nichols }

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