Monday, May 21, 2012

Math/Science Connections: Soaking the Soil

Testing week....  Kids are reviewed OUT and  I believe will run out of the building screaming if I give them one more study guide.  Yet  there is still more to learn and still more to  practice.  What's a teacher to do?  Here is what I discovered: if I want to engage my learners, even those reluctant ones, I let them experiment. I rarely have incidents of students not paying attention or losing focus when they are actively involved in science investigations like this one.

So here we have an experiment that allows students to think scientifically while applying their math measurement skills. I believe strongly that we need to give students real life opportunities to practice what we teach.  I know I must get these math/science tools into their hands if I want them to truly understand how to use them.

Here we explored the ability of different soils to absorb water. We had previously examined the physical characteristics of these three types of soil and so now were ready to work with them.
Third graders are ready to use the scientific method as they experiment and we began with our question and our hypothesis.  They are learning to state their hypothesis in an IF....THEN....statement.  Great cause/effect practice.  After a discussion of what we thought and why, we were ready to begin.

Students used measuring cups to add a specific amount of soil to a funnel. Here is a great place to talk about controls and variables in experimentation.
Next they used a graduated cylinder to measure water to add to the soil sample.
In it goes:

Here a student is watching the soil drain out while his partner times it with a stopwatch for thirty seconds.
Here is their result.  This is recorded on their experiment sheet in a math table. (see sheet below)
After getting all three results, they graphed it on the back. We discussed which type of graph made sense to use for this type of data.  We decided against a line graph or pictograph and went with a bar graph.  We decided a scale that increased by 2 would work for the data we recorded.
After the bar graphs were completed, students answered the two thinking questions.  This allowed them to apply their problem solving skills.  I included a box for students to show off their math thinking. 

Here a student is demonstrating her math thinking through math talk.  She is circling key words that helped her think through how to solve it.  Kids listen to kids way better than they listen to me sometimes. They also discover that there is usually more than one way to arrive at the same answer.  The verbalizing of the thinking is extremely valuable...I try never to skip it! 
Interested in trying this one? Here are the sheets. I run them back to back:
Soil Soaking the Soil
Soil Soaking the Soil 2


  1. How fun! Thanks for sharing. Best of luck with testing : )

  2. This experiment sounds like so much fun! I want to do it with my students this week. The only problem is I don't know where I can get a fair amount of silt. Where did you get yours?