Students will learn about measuring temperatures.
Main Curriculum Tie:
Mathematics - 4th Grade
Standard 4 Objective 1
Describe relationships among units of measure for length, capacity, and weight, and determine measurements of angles using appropriate tools.
For each group:
- 6 ice cubes
- Set of three 9-oz. clear
plastic cups (labeled A,
B, and C)
- Celsius thermometer
- 100-ml beaker
- 15 ml of table salt
- Basin for flood control
- Colored pencils
- Stirring stick (small
For the class:
- 2 liters of ice water
- 2 liters of hot water
- 4 liters of room temperature
- Bucket or access to a
- Cold Water Graph
- FOSS Measurement, by Lawrence Hall of Science, UCB,
(available at http://www.deltaeducation.com/fossgallery.aspx?subID=&menuID=2);
Item #WX542-2005, ISBN 0-87504-766-1
- Measure Up! Experiments, Puzzles, And
Measurement, by Sandra Markle; ISBN 0-689-31904-5
- Temperature, by Rebecca
Olien; ISBN 0-7368-2619-X
- Thermometers, by Adele Richardson; ISBN 0-7368-2519-3
Background For Teachers:
The tool that measures temperature is the thermometer. The scale
used by most scientists is the Celsius scale, named after Anders Celsius.
He developed the scale where zero degrees is the point at which water
turns to ice, and one hundred degrees is the point at which water boils.
This unit of temperature is known as degrees Celsius (˚C). The
thermometer you will use is glass with a narrow tube of red-colored
alcohol. The liquid alcohol expands as it gets hot and contracts as
heat is lost. Alcohol is a suitable liquid for student thermometers because it
will not freeze until it is well below the freezing point of water. To use a
thermometer, place the bulb of the thermometer in the liquid to be
measured. If you are measuring the temperature of the air, hold the thermometer
so that the bulb is not touching any surface. After a few
seconds (for liquids) or minutes (for the air), read the temperature by
looking to see to which marked line the top of the column of red alcohol
Intended Learning Outcomes:
4. Communicate mathematically.
5. Make mathematical connections.
6. Represent mathematical situations.
Invitation to Learn
Just prior to the activity, put out a set of three labeled cups (A, B, and
C) for each group. Pour 100 ml of room-temperature water into all of the
A and C cups. Pour 100 ml of ice-cold water into the B cups. You may
want to place each set of cups in a basin for flood control.
Ask students to share what they think when you say the word hot or
the word cold. Where in the world is it generally hot? Where is it
generally cold? How can you tell if something is hot or cold? Point out
the cups of water you have prepared. The students’ task is to use their
fingers to determine any differences in temperatures between the three
cups. Tell them that each group will work together to put the cups in
order from warmest to coldest.
- Each person will have one turn only and will
use only one finger.
The finger will be put into each cup in order, first into cup A, into
cup B, and then into cup C.
- When everyone is finished, they are to collaborate,
cups in order from warmest to coldest, and be ready to report out
loud the three letters in the order they have decided.
- Not all groups may
agree on the order. Whether or not they do,
have the groups repeat the procedure with a new finger. They
should return the cups to the original order A, B, C. This time
have students test in reverse order, placing their finger first into
cup C, into cup B, and then into cup A.
- Discuss the results, highlighting
any discrepancies between the
results of the first and second tests.
- Ask students how they might determine
the temperature of the
water in each cup with greater accuracy than their fingers.
- Introduce the thermometer as a way of measuring temperature.
Explain that the standard unit for measuring temperature in the
metric system is the degree Celsius (˚C). Hold up a
thermometer and explain how it works and how they are to use
it (see Background Information). Distribute the thermometers
and have the students carefully measure the temperature of the
water in each of the three labeled cups from the Invitation to
Learn. Have students record the three temperatures in their
journal. They may be surprised to discover that the
temperatures of cups A and C are the same. Discuss why they
seemed to be different temperatures when they tested using
- Have students dispose of the water in cups A and C, but
the cold water in cup B. Place 100 ml of hot water in cup A.
Have students measure the temperatures of the water in each of
the two cups. Have them record the temperatures in their
journal, identifying cup A as “hot water” and cup B as “cold
water.” Invite students to estimate what the temperature of the
water will be if they mix equal amounts of the hot and cold
water. Have them write their estimate in their journal,
identifying cup C as “mixture of hot and cold water.” Have
them then mix the two cups into cup C. Instruct them to gently
stir the water with the thermometer and then measure the
temperature of the mixed water. Students record the actual
temperature in their journals next to their estimate. Invite
students to explain why the temperature of the mixture was
between the hot and cold temperatures.
- Students create a vertical number
line in their journals that shows
0˚ C at the bottom and 50˚ C at the top, then plot their recorded
temperatures on to the number line labeling each as “hot water,”
“cold water,” and “mixed hot and cold water.” Next,
temperature of the air and have them record that temperature on their number
Optional: Invite one student in each group to measure their body
temperature by placing the bulb of the thermometer under
his/her tongue and holding it there, mouth closed, for one
minute. Have a partner read the thermometer while it is still
in place. Students record “body temperature” on their number
line (approximately 37˚ C). After students have placed
thermometers in their mouths, wash the thermometers in a
mild bleach solution and then rinse with clear water.
- Provide each group with a 9-oz. clear
plastic cup, a thermometer,
a stir stick (short straw), and a 100-ml beaker. You may want to
place these items in a basin for flood control. Conduct an
investigation to find out how cold room-temperature water will
become in ten minutes with two ice cubes.
- Students measure 100 ml of room
temperature water into the
clear cup, then create a two-column data table in their journal,
one labeled “minutes” and the other labeled “temperature.”
Each column should have eleven rows. Number the minutes
column zero through ten.
- Students measure the starting temperature
of the water and
record it in the temperature column in the zero-minutes row of
the data table in their journal.
- Deliver two ice cubes to the empty
beaker of each group.
- Tell the students when the teacher says “go,” they
carefully add the ice cubes to the cup of water and slowly stir
the water with the straw. Have them measure and record the
temperature each time a minute is called out. Continue for ten
- After the ten-minute investigation is concluded, distribute
copy of the Cold Water Graph to each student.
- Guide students to complete
the graph. Instruct students to
select a colored pencil for marking the graph.
- Make sure they plot
each point where the temperature and
minute lines intersect, creating a line graph.
- During a second session,
have students repeat the procedure.
However, during the second investigation students will not stir
the ice in the water.
- Students create a second data table in their journals.
- When they
plot the line graph on the Cold Water Graph, have
them select a different colored pencil so that the second line
will be different from the first line.
- During a third session, have
students repeat the procedure, this
time stirring the ice in the water.
- Before beginning, have students add
15 ml of salt to the water.
- They should stir the salt into the water
until it dissolves, then
- When they plot the third line graph on the Cold
have them select a different colored pencil so that the third
line will be different from the first two graphed lines.
- Discuss the
varied results of the three investigations. Help
students connect variables in the procedure to the results
- Students research the
origins of the Fahrenheit and Celsius
systems. Compare the freezing and boiling points of both
- Use the Internet to monitor the daily temperature of two different
locations for five consecutive days. Students develop a strategy
to compute the average temperature at each location and compare
- Practice taking temperatures. Make a list of locations and/or
materials. Estimate what the temperatures at these locations or of
these materials might be, then use a thermometer to measure the
- Students use the newspaper or
television weather report to record
the highs and lows where they live for a week. Create a line
graph showing the changes during the week. Draw two lines on
the same graph, one for the high temperatures and one for the low
- Students use a thermometer to record temperatures in
locations in their home. Record findings on a data table.
- Students place
a thermometer in their refrigerator for
approximately ten minutes. With a timer that tracks minutes, and
a paper to record temperatures, remove the thermometer from the
refrigerator and begin recording the temperature every ten
seconds for one and a half minutes. Create a line graph showing
the change in temperature over time.
- Provide a list of locations and objects such as in a refrigerator or the
temperature of freshly prepared hot chocolate. Next to each, identify two
significantly different temperatures in degrees Celsius. Have students select
the more reasonable temperature and explain why they made their selection.
- Provide a data table of collected temperature changes over time. Have students
correctly plot a line graph on a provided graph form.
- Move about the class with two cups of water of different temperatures.
Invite individual students to estimate the temperatures of each cup, then
correctly use a thermometer to accurately measure the temperatures.
Moscovici, H. (1999). Shifting from Activitymania to Inquiry
Do We Need to
This paper concentrates on what science educators can do to support
the shift toward inquiry science in the elementary classroom. Inquiry is
discussed as a central part of the methods courses.
Created Date :
Dec 20 2005 10:17 AM