Fellow name: Megan Burke

Title of Lesson:  Applying the Scientific Method: Is 7 Really a Lucky Number?

School: Emerson Middle School

Grade Level: 6-8 (implemented in 6th Earth Science)

Subject(s):  General Science, Scientific Method/Thinking

Summary

This lesson is based on a science fair experiment that I did as a kid in which I asked: "Is 7 a Lucky Number?"  The students are asked to help me to recreate the experiment. We research the question by determining how many different combinations of dice can yield the number 7, as compared to the other numbers 2-12, and develop a hypothesis.  Then, the students will be asked how we can test this hypothesis, and help to design an experiment using dice (how many throws are enough?).  The students will be divided into groups to perform the experiment. They throw dice the determined number of times, record their results, and analyze their data using tables and graphs.  Each group reports their results to the class, which are recorded on the board.  Conclusions are stated on the board as a class.

The main purpose is to demonstrate to the students how to develop and test a hypothesis to prepare them for their science fair experiments.  This lesson is designed to walk the students through the scientific method.  They are given the science question to be investigated, but the idea is that the students do the majority of the work in developing hypotheses, designing an experiment, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions.

Besides gaining a working knowledge of the scientific method, the other objectives of this lesson include getting the students to think of themselves as scientists (i.e. they help to design the experiment, rather than just following directions) and to think creatively about scientific investigation (i.e. they use the scientific method to investigate questions they have about their environment).  Also, to illustrate that really simple questions can make for good experiments, as long as one applies the scientific method soundly.

In what way is your lesson/activity inquiry-based?

This lesson is designed to be inquiry based.  The students have just learned the scientific method.  Using their knowledge, they will help me to remember how to do an experiment that I will pretend to have forgotten.  So, the students will come up with ways to answer our question; and, throughout the process of designing an experiment they will come up with questions about experimental design which we will be able to test.

Time Required

90 minutes

Group Size

approximately 35 students/ class.

Estimated cost

\$20 max (for dice)

Introduction / Motivation

This lesson is intended be implemented at the beginning of the school year as an introduction to the scientific method.  Begin class by asking the students to list the steps of scientific method and write them on the board.  Then, ask them why they should care about the scientific method.  By this time, I expect that they will get to the fact that they have to do experiments for the science fair.  I will relate to the students that while I do more complicated experiments now, I started out doing science fair experiments, just like them.  We are going to do a science fair experiment that I did when I was in school.  I will tell then that it was a very long time ago, and I'm having a hard time remembering exactly how I did it.  Luckily, we have the scientific method to guide us.  I need them to apply the scientific method to help me to recreate this experiment.

Materials List

Each group will need:

Set of dice

Notebook

Graph paper (or pre-made graphs, see attachments)

To share with the entire class:

White board

Procedure

1. Science Question.  Science helps us to understand and explain the world around us.  So, to come up with a good science question, we can begin observing our environment.  (Note: this is not just limited to the natural environment, but can include things that we observe in our homes, schools, neighborhoods).

My experience/ introduction:  I grew up just outside of Las Vegas, so lucky number seven was something I saw all the time: on billboards, in commercials, etc... I started to wonder, is 7 really a lucky number?

I will ask the students if they know of a way that I could determine this scientifically and it I could apply the scientific method.   We will review the steps of the scientific method and I will write it on the board.

2. Research. I'll bring in a set of dice, and we can find how many combinations of dice will yield the number 7 (as well as the other possible outcomes 2-12). Here the class will provide the answers and put them in a graph or table on the board. This will give us enough information to...

3. Develop a Hypothesis!!
Here we will discuss how we will test the hypothesis. I can throw the dice once and depending on whether or not a seven is rolled, I'll tell the students that our hypothesis was proven/ disproven and see if they buy it. As good scientists, they will not let me get away with this. As a group we will reason out how much data is necessary to collect. (Hint: it would take 36 throws to get every possible combination we found in step 2).  I will ask the students if they think that it is better to increase the number of throws, or the number of times that we repeat the experiment.  In this way, we can also test our experimental design.

4. Experiment/ Collect data.
Students will be divided into groups to perform this experiment.  Typically, 4-6 students sit at a table, so they will be divided up by tables.  The students will throw the dice 36 times (or more, depending on the class size and number of students/ group. There will be a recorder for each group and each student will get their chance to throw the dice.  Here, we can also discuss ethics - that it is important not to try to force our results.

5. Analyze Data.
Each group will make a table and a graph of their results. Then, a spokesperson for each group will report their results.  The individual (group) and combined (class) results will be put into a table and graph on the board. They can compare individual results with the class results to demonstrate the value of collecting large amounts of data/ repeating an experiment.

6. Conclusions. Was the hypothesis supported? Was our experiment sufficient to answer this question?

Safety Issues

None

Lesson Closure

Ask the students to think about an experiment that they would like to perform.  What are some questions that they have about their environment (broadly speaking) and how could we apply the scientific method to those questions?  Ideally, we will have enough time left in class to facilitate a discussion.  If not, I will ask the students to come up with a question to test as homework, and bring it to class next week for feedback.

Is this lesson based upon or modified from existing materials? If yes, please specify source(s) and explain how related:

As stated earlier, this lesson is modified from an old science fair experiment of mine.  I think that this is useful for the students, because they will enter the science fair this year.

References

None

Attachments

Student handouts will include a graph with the axes labeled, and an empty table.  The students can also create these on their own, but I want to have these on hand to save time.

7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Develop a hypothesis.

c. Construct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements about the relationships between variables.

d. Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and oral presentations.

e. Recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.

STUDENT HANDOUT

Question:  Is 7 really a lucky number?

Remember, that your hypothesis is an educated guess. The first step is to research the problem.  Using the set of dice and the following table, collect preliminary data so that you are able to form a hypothesis.  Write your hypothesis in the space provided below.

Table 1:

Hypothesis:

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How will you test your hypothesis?  Please describe your experimental design and be specific, so that someone else can repeat your experiment. (i.e.  How many times did you roll the dice? How did you come up with this number?)

Procedure:

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Record your data in the table below.

Table 2:

Use the plot provided to graph your data:

Based on your data table and graph, please summarize your observations in paragraph.   Consider the following questions.  Was your hypothesis correct?  How do your results compare with other groups in the class and combined class results?  Does this tell you anything about your experimental design?  Consider your environment.  Can you think of a question to which you can apply the scientific method?

Conclusions:

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