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Rolling marbles II Capability: Gather & Interpret data NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Physical world Level : 3,4

Rolling marbles II

This resource illustrates how an Assessment Resource Banks item can be adapted to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to gather and interpret data in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Investigating in science

Carry out scientific investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things or developing systems.

L1 & 2:

Extend their experiences and personal explanations of the natural world through exploration, play, asking questions, and discussing simple models.

The Physical World strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Physical inquiry and physics concepts

Explore and investigate physical phenomena in everyday situations.

L1 & 2:

Explore, describe, and represent patterns and trends for everyday examples of physical phenomena, such as……movement, forces….

Learning focus

Students closely observe patterns in data and make inferences based on their observations.

Learning activity

This Assessment Resource Banks item supports students to notice patterns in data collected from their own investigation. They roll marbles down a ramp onto two different surfaces, one smooth, and the other rough. They mark the stopping point for each run with a coloured sticker. This provides a visual picture of the pattern of the data.

Adapting the resource

The resource already focuses students on both observation and inference, but asking the questions orally in a group situation is likely to elicit a broader range of responses than a written response.

 Question a) asks students to describe what they notice about the pattern. In this initial activity discourage students from making inferences – just get them to describe what they can see. To support students to just talk about what they see, ask them to:

  • start their descriptions with, “On the rough surface…” and/or “On the smooth surface …”
  • describe the whole pattern as well as individual points
  • compare the patterns of dots on the different surfaces.

Before going on to Questions b) and c) ask students what they think could be the reasons for the patterns they have described. To do this they will need to make inferences based on the data they have collected. Students will be making meaning based on their observations of the patterns, i.e., interpreting data. Focus on how the students justify their ideas.

The Teachers Guide provides examples of the sorts of responses that students make, and suggestions for next learning steps.

What’s important here?

What counts as evidence in science are observations (direct and indirect) of the natural physical world. Scientists put effort into ensuring they have robust data (i.e., that their observations are accurate).  This often involves measuring something. Organising observational data so the patterns are easier to see (e.g., in graphs and tables) is an important part of scientific investigations. (This will be further explored under capability 4: Making sense of representations of science ideas.)

Developing an appreciation of what counts as evidence in science supports students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

When you ask, “What do you see?” When you ask, “What do you think?”

Do students limit their answers to things that are observable?

How much detail do they include?

Do they describe the overall pattern as well as the individual measurements?

Do students support their ideas with their observations?

Do they draw on a number of observations to support their ideas?

Do their explanations relate to the overall pattern?

Do they recognise that the data may include irrelevant outliers?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in gathering and interpreting data see Learning at different curriculum levels.

Exploring further

Activities that involve students measuring how far an object will travel under different conditions could be adapted to use this measurement strategy, which in turn will support students to see the patterns in the data they collect.

Section 2, Activity 2 on Page 11 of Marbles: Exploring Motion and Forces (Building Science Concepts, Booklet 42) investigates the effect of the angle of a slope on how fast a marble travels.

Bikes: Levers, Friction, and Motion(Building Science Concepts, Booklet 59)includes a section on investigating friction.

The Assessment Resource Banks item  Light in my eyes  is an investigation of the pattern of light bouncing off mirrors.

Other resources for this capability

Key words

Assessment Resource Banks, marbles