Plates Without States

Hey history teacher-friends!

Lately, I’ve been interested in the math teaching opportunities that arise when we delete and then progressively reveal details of a task. Digital media offers us that luxury while paper denies it.

I saw an opportunity to apply the same approach in history and geography. I took the license plates from all fifty United States and removed explicit references to the state or its outline. Then Evan Weinberg turned it into an online quiz.

Feel free to send your students to that quiz, or to use the images themselves [full, deleted, animated] in any way you want. If you’re feeling obliging, stop by and let us know how it went in the comments.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Interesting activity. As a Canadian I got 43 out of 50. Now I challenge you on two counts: (a) make one for adjacent countries, i.e., Canada and Mexico (if indeed the latter has state plates), then (b) collect demographics on the challenge takers.

  2. I got 42, but I probably would have gotten fewer if all of the plates had been presented all at once. I wonder how the difficulty increases as you add more and more plates on the page. Or, how would the difficulty increase if the plates were organized by region? I was able to use process of elimination because each page seemed to have a state around where I’ve lived (PNW and Memphis), but if all of the heartland, wild west (Montana, etc), or NE states had been on one page I’m not sure I would have gotten them all.

    • “Who’s this LeeAnn Hammett character??” – me, before I put it all together.

      Congrats, LeeAnn!

  3. Very nice quiz, I got 46 correct, although a couple were just plain guesses. I could use ideas for how to use this concept in math word problems. I teach Statistics.

    • The graphic software is Pixelmator, though there are a bunch of other options that’d work. Here’s a quick demo. The quiz software is a custom job from Evan Weinberg.

  4. I got 50, but I do have 17 trips across the country, one way or the other, by car ☺️ I agree with LeeAnn, it would have been harder if they were all laid out as one.