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Changing Ramp Heights
Administration Procedures
Contributed by: New York State Alternative Assessment in Science Project (NYSED)


Students determine the relationship between the height of a ramp and the energy of a ball rolling down the ramp. They also discuss factors causing variability in results and the need for multiple trials.

The task assesses students' abilities to collect and organize data, utilize evidence to form explanations, and explain the reasoning behind experimental design.

This task is designed to take students approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Motions and forces

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8

1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description - providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

8 B PS 2: Motions and forces: Grades 5-8
2.3 If more than one force acts on an object along a straight line, then the forces will reinforce or cancel one another, depending on their direction and magnitude. Unbalanced forces will cause changes in the speed or direction of an object's motion.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

Algebra (AL1): Understand patterns, relations and functions.

Data Analysis and Probability (DAP2): Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data.

Measurement (MEAS1): Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement.

Number and Operations (NO3): Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates.

Algebra (AL4): Analyze change in various contexts.

Data Analysis and Probability (DAP3): Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data.

Problem Solving (PS1): Build new mathematical knowledge through problem solving.

Communication (COM4): Use the language of mathematics to express mathematical ideas precisely.

Connections (CNX2): Understand how mathematical ideas interconnect and build on one another to produce a coherent whole.

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.


The teacher will need:

  • scissors or a craft knife
  • black or blue marker

At this station students should have:

  • three books of the same size
  • plastic cup or bowl
  • 30 cm ruler w/center groove
  • golf ball
  • metric measuring tape
  • masking tape
  • calculator

Advance Preparation:

  • Cut a hole in the side of the plastic cup or container large enough to allow the golf ball to roll through it freely.
  • Designate the part of the cup that the students will be measuring from (back or front).
  • Students must have a large flat surface to do this task; laboratory tables, cafeteria tables, or the floor work well. A single student desk is not large enough.
  • A ball release point should be marked on the ramp or ruler with permanent marker.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


  • Uniform wood blocks may be used in the place of the books for the ramp.
  • A rubber ball may be substituted for the golf ball.
  • A piece of wooden molding may be used in place of the ruler for the ramp.



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