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Supersized Life: Comparing Across Scales

Author(s): Natasha Vitek1, Christopher Baker2

1. Stony Brook University 2. Exceptional Student Education Department, Alachua County Public Schools

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How wide is the size range of living beings, from "big" to "too small to see"? Students will collect and compare measurements from 3D specimens within the metric system by multiplying or dividing numbers by powers of ten to solve word problems.

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Version 1.0 - published on 24 Mar 2020 doi:10.25334/PECK-4J20 - cite this


4th-5th grade, can be adapted 6th, 8th grades.

Two 45-60-minute class periods

How wide is the scale of living beings that we encounter, even if we can’t see them?

To prepare and empower students to undertake a more formal study of exponents and logarithms by creating and solving math problems involving changes on a logarithmic base-ten scale. To give students an intuitive sense and appreciation of how large changes by orders of magnitude are.

Science: Students will learn about animals and viruses that are usually too small and fragile to see and manipulate through 3D printed models of these organisms and information sheets.
Technology: Students will learn about the 3D printing process and work with 3D printed models.
Mathematics: Students will spend much of their time using measuring tools and solving mathematical puzzles.

Formative Assessment: A written pre-test will be administered at the beginning of Day 1. It consists of 3-4 word problems focusing on comparisons of two objects at different scales. For example: “Some scientists found out that water bears (1 mm long) can survive in space. An astronaut wants to take more water bears into space with her to do some research. He has a tube 10 mm long to carry all of his specimens.
Approximately how many water bears could he fit inside the tube to take with him into space?” Only 5-10 minutes should be needed for the test.

Summative Assessment: Questions and answer keys submitted during the final activity on Day 2 serve as an assessment both in terms of quantity (number of question-answer sets submitted) and quality (number of correct answer keys).


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