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STEM Challenge featuring Math Skills

Let’s combine an exciting STEM Challenge and collecting data. Students will use data to calculate the mean, median, mode, and range after completing each task!

This is all about cup stacking!

Now, you know this is true >>> If you give a group of students a stack of cups they are going to immediately take them apart and start building pyramids. #right

So, why not add some math to the task and practice solving problems, too!

Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and range; teachers' guide detailed

Cups and Math, Really?

I know you are wondering how on earth putting some cups out is going to end up with math activities, just take a look at all we can do!

  • It’s fun, first of all. Since it appears to be a game and a competition, it is very engaging.
  • The math includes finding the mean, median, range, and mode of the data collected.
  • It includes class data charts that result in math problems.
  • Did I mention that it is fun?

Cups and Math Exploration

Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and range; fun activity

We always begin with just a free-stacking time. Students can build any shape and height until they run out of cups. I give them about 5 minutes. Then we get busy.

TIP: Use plastic or paper cups. Foam cups can have static and the cups will move and crash when that static effect happens.

TIP: Set up some rules- My biggest rule is that when I hit the light switch student must stop building!

STEM and Math Task 1

Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and range; upper elementary

The first assignment is to build the tallest tower possible using as many cards as possible in a certain amount of time.

When the timer dings students count their cups in the tower and report it to the class data keeper.

Every team then completes the lab sheet by calculating the mean, median, mode, and range of the class data.

TIP: Make sure students know how to perform these functions before beginning. I review mean (averaging) and show students how to calculate the others. I have an anchor chart that reminds them what to do for each calculation.

Different Shapes

Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and range; Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and rangelesson plans

For our beginning task, almost all groups will make a traditional pyramid with a long straight line of cups.

However, one of the later tasks asks students to make the bottom row into a different shape.

Notice the circular shape of the one in the photo!

More Cups and Math

Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and range; blog article

A couple of the tasks have students counting the cups for their data tables.

But, two of the tasks ask them to build a tower and measure its height.

We calculate the same mean, median, range, and mode with those measurements.

I told you this was all about math skills!

Data Tables for STEM and Math Tasks

Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and range; website post

This resource has the student data tables already made for them.

For our class data table, I just project one of these pages onto our whiteboard and students fill in their info with a dry-erase marker.

It also works to have a recorder chosen to write numbers on the chart while you are measuring the towers.

FINAL TIP: We use calculators for this activity. That is optional for your students, of course! I do it because our class time is limited and it just takes longer for students to add and divide.

So, I know you are wondering how this is a design project! Do you remember those towers I mentioned that students build using different shapes? Those shapes are a lot harder than you would think. The base is the easiest part but the next layers are very tricky. The base must be built well in order to support more rows. Also, students are always competing in this challenge, and building fancy, wonky shapes inevitably ends in a tremendous crash.

Try this challenge if your kids love competing and you love adding some math to your cup stacking!

STEM and Math fit together perfectly. This is a fun challenge that will produce interesting results and lots of learning! (Not to mention the practice of finding those results.)

More math-related projects can be found in these blog posts:

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that Amazon will pass on small percentages to me with your purchase of items. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

Math Skills and STEM Challenge- finding mean, median, mode, and range; blog post

My Favorite Math Picture Books

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