Transcontinental Railroad: The Challenge of Bridging a Continent

Core Understandings

  • Students understand the impact of the Transcontinental Railroad and its influence on the prosperity of California.

  • Students become familiar with the contributions made by immigrants by examining the role of the Chinese upon an integral link that united America.

  • Learning about the types of problems the railroad developers solved during construction and integration of the railroad into American society will help students see the relevance of math to important advancements in U.S. history.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will discuss California’s need of the Transcontinental Railroad.

  • Students will write about the importance of Theodore Judah’s role in the planning of the railroad.

  • Students will translate word problems into math sentences and solve them.

  • Students will create charts and graphs to show their reasoning effectively.

Time Requirements

          6 hours 30 minutes over 5 days


MA.4.3.3. Solve problems involving multiplication of multidigit numbers by two-digit numbers.
MA.4.3.4. Solve problems involving division of multidigit numbers by one-digit numbers.
Statistics, Data Analysis, and Probability
MA.4.1.0 Students organize, represent, and interpret numerical and categorical data and clearly communicate their findings:
MA.4.1.2. Identify the mode(s) for sets of categorical data and the mode(s), median, and any apparent outliers for numerical data sets.
Mathematical Reasoning
MA.4.2.0 Students use strategies, skills, and concepts in finding solutions:
MA.4.2.3. Use a variety of methods, such as words, numbers, symbols, charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, and models, to explain mathematical reasoning.
MA.4.2.4. Express the solution clearly and logically by using the appropriate mathematical notation and terms and clear language; support solutions with evidence in both verbal and symbolic work.
History and Social Science
Grade Four California: A Changing State
HSS.4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.
HSS.4.4.1. Understand the story and lasting influence of the Pony Express, Overland Mail Service, Western Union, and the building of the transcontinental railroad, including the contributions of Chinese workers to its construction.
HSS.4.4.3. Discuss immigration and migration to California between 1850 and 1900, including the diverse composition of those who came; the countries of origin and their relative locations; and conflicts and accords among the diverse groups (e.g., the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act).