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Tallest Stack Wins

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Summary

Students build a stack of pennies as tall as possible, recording the number. Sharing answers, they determine the average number of pennies that could be stacked.

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent

Coin Program(s)

  • Generic

Objectives

  • Students will systematically collect, organize, and describe data, as well as make an inference and convincing argument based on data analysis.
  • Students will develop an appreciation for statistical methods as decision-making tools.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Math

Grades

  • Third grade
  • Fourth grade
  • Fifth grade

Class Time

Sessions: One
Session Length: 20-30 minutes
Total Length: 0-45 minutes

Groupings

  • Whole group
  • Small groups

Terms and Concepts

  • Probability
  • Problem solving
  • Statistics

Materials

  • 1 bag of pennies for each group
  • Pencils and paper for recording
  • Box lids to catch the pennies when a stack falls
  1. Divide the students into small groups of five: one recorder and four builders.
  2. Each builder takes his or her turn stacking the pennies as high as possible. The recorder notes the height (in pennies) of each stack just before it fell.
  3. Once all four builders have made their stacks, another student should take over as recorder so the recorder can build a fifth stack.
  4. After building five stacks, the students together determine the average number of pennies in a stack before it falls, using calculators if desired.

Enrichments/Extensions

Have students conduct the same experiment with different denominations of coins, seeing how their size and thickness changes the stacking results.

Assess how well the students were able to collect, organize, describe and analyze the penny data.

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Data Analysis and Probability
Cluster: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them.
Grade(s): Grades 3–5
Standards:

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • design investigations to address a question and consider how data-collection methods affect the nature of the data set;
  • collect data using observations, surveys, and experiments;
  • represent data using tables and graphs such as line plots, bar graphs, and line graphs; and
  • recognize the differences in representing categorical and numerical data.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Data Analysis and Probability
Cluster: Understand and apply basic concepts of probability.
Grade(s): Grades 3–5
Standards:

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • describe events as likely or unlikely and discuss the degree of likelihood using such words as certain, equally likely, and impossible;
  • predict the probability of outcomes of simple experiments and test the predictions; and
  • understand that the measure of the likelihood of an event can be represented by a number from 0 to 1.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Data Analysis and Probability
Cluster: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data.
Grade(s): Grades 3–5
Standards:

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • propose and justify conclusions and predictions that are based on data and design studies to further investigate the conclusions or predictions.