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Administration Procedures
Grades 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO/SCASS)


This event asks students to determine the average speed of a toy car as it travels six different distances set up by the students. Three trials are done for each distance. The only requirement is that the longest distance must be at least three times longer than the shortest distance used. Students use their experience to describe an experiment to determine if cars that pass by the school are speeding.

This task is designed to take students approximately 40 - 50 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 B PS 2: Motions and forces: Grades 5-8
2.1  The motion of an object can be described by its position, direction of motion, and speed. That motion can be measured and represented on a graph.

8 A SI 1: Ability necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8
1.2 Design and conduct a scientific investigation. Students should develop general abilities, such as systematic observation, making accurate measurements, and identifying and controlling variables. They should also develop the ability to clarify their ideas that are influencing and guiding the inquiry, and to understand how those ideas compare with current scientific knowledge. Students can learn to formulate questions, design investigations, execute investigations, interpret data, use evidence to generate explanations, propose alternative explanations, and critique explanations and procedures.

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.

(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:

DAP2: Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data :
Grades 6-8 e. find, use, and interpret measures of center and spread, including mean and interquartile range

DAP3: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data:
Grades 6-8 e. use conjectures to formulate new questions and plan new studies to answer them

AL1: Understand patterns, relations and functions:
Grades 6-8 f. represent, analyze, and generalize a variety of patterns with tables, graphs, words, and, when possible, symbolic rules

MEAS2: Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements:
Grades 6-8 k. select and apply techniques and tools to accurately find length, area, volume, and angle measures to appropriate levels of precision
Grades 6-8 o. solve simple problems involving rates and derived measurements for such attributes as velocity and density

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 6-8

RP3: Develop and evaluate mathematical arguments and proofs:
Grades 6-8

COM4: Use the language of mathematics to express mathematical ideas precisely:
Grades 6-8

CNX2: Understand how mathematical ideas interconnect and build on one another to produce a coherent whole:
Grades 6-8

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 40-50 minutes to complete.

Students will be working in groups of 4-6 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise.

Students work together for up to 20 minutes. They are instructed to notify you when finished with the group work, and then to go on to the individual work beginning with question #1. If students are still working together 20 minutes after the testing begins, instruct them to cease their group work and begin individual work. At this point, they may no longer talk. Whether or not they are just beginning their individual work, remind students that they now have about 25 minutes to complete the individual activity.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. Group assignments should be made in advance. 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.

Materials for "Velocity":

At this station students should have:

  • self-propelled toy car
  • masking tape
  • 1 meter stick
  • stopwatch or clock with second hand
  • 1 pen or pencil per student

Advance Preparation:

Care should be taken to use toy cars that are durable and roll along a straight line when released.

The students should work on a clean, flat surface (preferably the floor). If the room is carpeted the experiment will still work, but the tape may not stick as well. The tape will only be used to mark out distances.


  • 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.


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