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Classification of Materials
Task with Student Directions

6th-8th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: The RAND Institute (RAND)

Task Directions:

Part 1: Sorting People

The ways in which objects differ are called properties. Properties can be used to sort objects into groups. Color is one property you could use to classify cars. You might sort cars into two groups based on their color: blue and not blue. Another car property is speed. There could be two speed groups: fast and slow. You also could classify cars by how many doors they have. One group has 2 doors, another group has 4 doors, and so on. There are many different properties you could use to classify things.

  1. Take the pictures out of the envelope labeled "People".

  2. Look at pictures A and B. List two ways the people in A and B are similar to each other.

  3. List one way A is different from B:

  4. Gender is one property. Every person is either male or female. Gender could be used to sort people into two groups; one group is males and the other is females.

    Do A and B belong to the same gender group? (Circle one answer)


  5. Another property is body position. You can use this property to divide people into two groups: sitting and standing.

    Do A and B belong to the same body position group? (Circle one answer)


  6. A few students started to classify the people in the envelope.

    First, they chose two properties. One property is gender. It has two groups, male and female. They wrote this property and its groups on top of the table below. The other property is headwear. Headwear also has two groups, cap and no cap. The student wrote these labels on the side of the table.

    Second, they wrote labels inside each box. Box 1 is labeled "male-cap" because it is under the male group and next to the cap group. Box 2 is "female-cap" because it is under the female group and next to the cap groups. Box 3 is "male-no cap" and Box 4 is "female-no cap".

    Third, they wrote "A" in Box 1 because picture A is a male and wearing a cap. They wrote "B" in Box 4 because B is female and notwearinga cap.

    YOUR JOB is to finish the table below. Write each person's letter in the right box. Be sure to use all of the letters: C, D, E, F, G, H.

  7. A second group of students started to sort the people using different properties but ran out of time.

    YOUR JOB is to finish labeling all of the properties, groups, and boxes. Use the words below to do this.




    summer clothing
    winter clothing



    Hint: Sort the pictures into the boxes on your placemat so you can see the groups they made. Some of the labels have been done already. The pictures in Box 4 have two things in common; they both show a child wearing summer clothing. That is why it has the "child-summer" label.

    When you are finished, please put the figures back into the "People" envelope.


Part 2: Sorting Materials

  1. Take the materials out of Envelope 1 and look at them carefully. Think about the different properties you could use to sort these materials into groups.

    Sort the materials into the four boxes using whatever properties and groups you want. Make sure to follow these rules:

    • Each box must have at least one material.
    • You must use all eight materials.

    YOUR JOB is to fill in the table below. Be sure to label the properties, groups, and boxes. Write the letters of the materials in the boxes where they belong.

  2. Take the material out of Envelope 2. Does the material belong in any of the boxes in the table you just made? In the space below, describe which box this material should be in and why. If the material does not belong in any of the boxes, be sure to explain why.

    When you are finished, please put the materials back into the envelopes.


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