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Add and Subtract with Hudson River Shipping

Lesson Plan

Students will practice addition and subtraction skills by tracking the movements of ships, tugboats, and barges on the Hudson River estuary.


Students will solve word problems that require them to:

  • Read and interpret data from a table;
  • Add and subtract to calculate distances traveled by vessels on the Hudson;
  • Add and subtract using hours and minutes to determine elapsed time required by vessels to move between river milepoints.

Grade Level:

Elementary (Grades 3-5)

Subject Area:

Math, Social Studies (Geography)

New York State Learning Standards:

Mathematics, Science, & Technology Standards 1, 2, and 3
Social Studies Standard 3


  • Interpret data from a table.
  • Use whole numbers to identify locations and measure distances.
  • Add and subtract whole numbers.
  • Apply mathematics in real world settings.
  • Reason mathematically.


Preparation time: 5 minutes
Activity time: 30 minutes


Each student should have:


The Hudson River is a major shipping route for oil, grain, cement, and road salt. A small unit of any of these products has little worth; transporting huge loads by water minimizes shipping costs. By volume and value, petroleum products are the most important cargos on the river; tanker barges are the most common commercial vessels. Ships carry gypsum to wallboard factories in Rensselaer, Verplanck, and Haverstraw. Road salt also arrives by ship. Powdered cement goes downriver in barges. Stone quarried in Ulster, Dutchess, and Rockland Counties is pushed downriver in scows (barges without a deck over their cargo area).

The Port of Albany is the destination of many vessels seen on the Hudson. Scrap metal is shipped in and out of Albany, as is wood pulp. Heavy equipment leaves the port on heavy lift vessels. Containers are barged between Albany and New York Harbor. Food products are also carried on ships. Grain goes in and out of Albany while cocoa beans and molasses come in from points south. Raw sugar is barged from Florida to a refinery in Yonkers.

Distances on the Hudson are often measured in Hudson River Miles. Hudson River Miles start at the southern tip of Manhattan. This spot, called The Battery, is River Mile 0. The estuary part of the Hudson ends at the Federal Dam in Troy at River Mile 153.


  1. Introduce the Hudson River Miles system; show students the Hudson River Miles map.
  2. Discuss the kinds of ships and cargoes seen on the Hudson.
  3. Go over the worksheet with the class, or assign as in-class work or homework.

Vocabulary List and Answer Key:

Available in the pdf version of this teacher's section and in the package that bundles all of the readings.


  • Have students share answers to questions from worksheet, or collect and grade sheets.
  • Make up similar elapsed time/distance problems for quiz.


Photos and dimensions of the barges described in this activity, as well as many tugboats commonly seen on the Hudson, can be viewed at the websites of the Bouchard Transportation Company and the Reinauer Transportation Company. Use the links leaving DEC's website on the right side of this page to visit these websites.