Intriguing, authentic data can make or break a math project. I keep a list of bookmarks to surprising data I’ve found around the web.

But what if you know what data you want to find? Sure, you could Google it, but an even better source is Wolfram Alpha, especially if you’d like to work with the data as well.

### Area of California

For example: want to know the area of California? In Wolfram Alpha, you just type in “area of California” and up pops the data: 163,700 mi^{2}

In fact, Wolfram Alpha also gives a bunch of other potentially interesting information:

- land area
- water area
- farmland area, and so on

### Calculating and Comparing

Then, say I want to know how the population compares to the area? Easy! Just type it in like a math operation: population of California / area of California and we see that there are 237 people per square mile.

Well, how does that compare to the fine state of Montana? Run the same calculation and you’ll see that they’ve got just under 7 people per square mile. Wow! What a perfect way to teach ratios or proportions!

### Keep Going!

What else could you look up?

- Distance from New York to London
- Temperature on Mars
- Depth of Lake Michigan

Give it a spin! See what the limits are. Wolfram Alpha is great inspiration for building intriguing math questions.

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