I was recently looking for an activity to explore a linear relationship, preferable one that included some practice with decimals. I found a few examples but none of them really seemed to satisfy what I was looking for. Here are a few of my criteria for good experiments to explore function relationships:
Notice and WonderThere were some great questions about volume and surface area, weight, and size of the paper clips (what is a #4 sized paper clip?). The questions the we went on to investigate was how long would it take to make a paper clip chain from all 100 paper clips. I was inspired by Dan Meyer's Guinness World Record for the longest paperclip chain in 24 hours. Dan blogged about breaking the record as well as asking student to see how many paperclips they could chain in one minute. EstimationI asked students to estimate how long they thought it would take to create a chain of 100 paper clips. I also asked them to think about an estimate that they know was too low (that creating a chain this fast was not possible) and too high (that they would have no problem creating a chain in this time even going slowly). Most students thought that a time between 5 and 6 minutes was a good "just right" estimate. Gathering Data
Revising EstimatesAfter collecting and analyzing some data, I ask students if they'd like to revise their estimate for 100 paper clips. Then we test their revised estimate using a plot of the values they collected and extrapolating. Below is one student's data plotted in Desmos. They estimated 300 seconds (5 minutes) to chain all 100 paperclips. This lesson could be modified to include outcomes from a number of different grade levels. I closed the lesson by showing students the record for the most paper clips linked together in one minute and asked students how they would compare. Nova Scotia Mathematics Curriculum Outcomes Mathematics 6 SP01  Students will be expected to create, label, and interpret line graphs to draw conclusions. Mathematics 6 SP02  Students will be expected to select, justify, and use appropriate methods of collecting data, including questionnaires, experiments, databases, and electronic media. Mathematics 6 SP03  Students will be expected to graph collected data and analyze the graph to solve problems. Mathematics 7 PR02  Students will be expected to create a table of values from a linear relation, graph the table of values, and analyze the graph to draw conclusions and solve problems. Mathematics 7 N02  Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of decimals to solve problems (for more than onedigit divisors or more than twodigit multipliers, the use of technology is expected). Mathematics 7 SP01  Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of central tendency and range by: determining the measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode) and range; determining the most appropriate measures of central tendency to report findings. Mathematics 7 SP02  Students will be expected to determine the effect on the mean, median, and mode when an outlier is included in a data set. EL
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