Measuring Activity

Big ball small ball

What are we doing to help kids achieve?

     I want to share a measuring activity for you to consider. First, start with two baseballs. The first baseball is a regular baseball. The other baseball is called a "small ball". Small balls are the exact same as regular baseballs just smaller. Coaches use these to help players with fielding and hitting. You can buy them at a sporting good store, online or if you are like me, make friends with the baseball coach. Next, get six to eight students to volunteer. Without talking at all the students must hold the normal baseball and the small ball. They then must decide if the normal ball has more, less or the same mass as the small ball. The students write their decisions on the board.

     I have been doing this for twenty years with students, parents and teachers. Overwhelmingly, most people think the small ball weighs the same as or more than the large baseball. Find the mass of each ball. The balance indicates the larger baseball always has much more mass. Students are somewhat shocked at the outcome. The point I make with kids when they see the measured mass is that our senses can deceive us. Good practice and instruments help eliminate this deception.

     Next, I place my students in lab groups. Each lab group is assigned a paper taped to the chalkboard. One student must go to their group paper on the board and make an estimation. Usually, the estimation involves a simple measurement (How much mass is in this penny? How much water is in this cup?). The student quietly writes their estimation underneath the paper taped so noone else sees it and goes back to their group. A different student from the group goes to the board to retrieve the object. They make the actual measurement and record this next to the paper on the board.

     Now the fun part. I go to the board and compare the estimated answer under the paper with the measured value next to the paper for each group. The team that has the measured value closest to the estimated value wins a point. Did the students use units? Did they use metric or english units? Did they use the equipment correctly? All of these questions come up quickly. Each incident provides a nice learning opportunity. Overall, this is a quick, simple activity that provides much information for students and the teacher. It engages students and helps with measurements at the beginning of the year. Do you have a "go to" activity for measurement?  Please share...I would love to hear about it.....

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Comments 1

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Thu, 09/07/2017 - 07:28

It is always my intention to give credit where credit is due.  I think the first person that I know of to do this demonstration was science teacher Karlos Patterson who has since passed away.