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Rate of Cooling Experiment
Administration Procedures

9th Grade Performance Task
Developed by: RAND Corporation (RAND)
Stanford University and the Far West Laboratory, 1994


[Note: This activity can be done in conjunction with "Rate of Cooling Design".]

In this task, students measure the insulation properties of different fabrics by immersing cans of water covered with fabric "socks" in an ice bath and measuring temperature changes.

This task assesses students' abilities to draw and label graphs, with correct plotting and axes, make accurate statements about mean rate, total change, and comparisons, describe patterns, design an experiment, and use a formula to calculate heat loss.

Overall Task Content Area:

Science and Technology

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Abilities of technological design

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:

12 E ST 1: Abilities of technological design: Grades 9-12
1.2 Propose designs and choose between alternative solutions. Students should demonstrate thoughtful planning for a piece of technology or technique. Students should be introduced to the roles of models and simulations in these processes.

1.3 Implement a proposed solution. A variety of skills can be needed in proposing a solution depending on the type of technology that is involved. The construction of artifacts can require the skills of cutting, shaping, treating, and joining common materials - such as wood, metal, plastics, and textiles. Solutions can also be implemented using computer software.

1.4 Evaluate the solution and its consequences. Students should test any solution against the needs and criteria it was designed to meet. At this stage, new criteria not originally considered may be reviewed.

(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:

AL1: Understand patterns, relations and functions:
Grades 9-12 k. analyze functions of one variable by investigating rates of change, intercepts, zeros, asymptotes, and local and global behavior

AL2: Represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols:
Grades 9-12 l. use symbolic algebra to represent and explain mathematical relationships

AL3: Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships:
Grades 9-12 f. draw reasonable conclusions about a situation being modeled

AL4: Analyze change in various contexts:
Grades 9-12 f. approximate and interpret rates of change form graphical and numerical data

DAP1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them:
Grades 9-12 l. understand the meaning of measurement data and categorical data, of univariate and bivariate data, and of the term variable
Grades 9-12 m. understand histograms, parallel box plots, and scatter plots and use them to display data

DAP2: Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data:
Grades 9-12 h. for bivariate measurement data, be able to display a scatter plot, describe its shape, and determine regression coefficients, regression equations, and correlation coefficients using technological tools

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 9-12

CNX3: Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics:
Grades 9-12

REP1: Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas:
Grades 9-12

General Instructions to the Teacher:

Students will be working in groups during this exercise. Questions to be answered by the entire group or by the individual student are marked as such.

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.

Materials for "Rate of Cooling":

For activity titled "Messing Around":

The teacher will need:

  • water supply labeled "Warm Water"
  • water supply from faucet or labeled "Tap Water"
  • ice (cubes or crushed)
  • safety goggles for every student
  • paper towels (or other drying material)

At each station students will need:

  • 1 Group Answer Sheet
  • 1 Celsius thermometer
  • 1 watch with second hand or stopwatch
  • 1 250-ml beaker
  • 1 large plastic container with lid, containing:
    • 1 standard soup size metal can with top lid removed
    • 1 fabric "sock," labeled Fabric B
    • 1 sandwich size re-sealable plastic bag
    • 2 rubber bands

For activity titled "Experimental Design":

The teacher will need:

  • Same materials as in "Messing Around"

At each station students will need:

  • 1 soup size metal can
  • 3 different fabric "socks" that can be fitted over the can, one at a time, labeled Fabric A, Fabric B, and Fabric C
  • 1 large container
  • tap water and ice
  • warm water (at or above 37 degrees Celsius)
  • 1 Celsius thermometer
  • 1 stopwatch (or similar timepiece to measure seconds)
  • additional materials: 1 250-ml beaker, 1 sandwich size re-sealable plastic bag, 2 rubber bands, paper towels, safety goggles.

For activity titled "Rate of Cooling Experiment":

The teacher will need:

  • Same materials as in "Messing Around"

At each station students will need:

  • Student Data Sheets (1 for each group member)
  • 1 Celsius thermometer
  • 1 watch with second hand or stopwatch
  • 1 250-ml beaker
  • 1 large plastic container with lid, containing:
    • 1 standard soup size metal can with top lid removed
    • 3 different fabric "socks," labeled Fabric A, Fabric B, & Fabric C
    • 1 sandwich size re-sealable plastic bag
    • 2 rubber bands


  • 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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