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Balls and Ramp
Administration Procedures

4th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: New York State Education Department (NYSED)
NYS Alternative Assessment in Science Project (1996)


Students will measure the distances different balls move a cup, reinforcing the idea that energy can be transferred from one object to another.

This task assesses students' abilities to accurately record measurements, observe, compare and interpret data, construct explanations based on data, and make predictions.

This task is designed to take students approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Position and motion of objects

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • 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 K-4
2.2 An object that is not being subjected to a force will continue to move at a constant speed and in a straight line.

4 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4
1.3 Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses. In early years, students develop simple skills, such as how to observe, measure, cut, connect, switch, turn on and off, pour, hold, tie, and hook. Beginning with simple instruments, students can use rulers to measure the length, height, and depth of objects and materials; thermometers to measure temperature; watches to measure time; beam balances and spring scales to measure weight and force; magnifiers to observe objects and organisms; and microscopes to observe the finer details of plants, animals, rocks, and other materials. Children also develop skills in the use of computers and calculators for conducting investigations.

1.4 Use data to construct a reasonable explanation. This aspect of the standard emphasizes the studentsí thinking as they use data to formulate explanations. Even at the earliest grade levels, students should learn what constitutes evidence and judge the merits or strength of the data and information that will be used to make explanations. After students propose an explanation, they will appeal to the knowledge and evidence they obtained to support their explanations. Students should check their explanations against scientific knowledge, experiences, and observations of others.

(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:

DAP1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them:
Grades pre K-5 f. represent data using tables and graphs such as line plots, bar graphs, and line graphs

DAP3: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data:
Grades pre K-5 b. propose and justify conclusions and predictions that are based on data and design studies to further investigate the conclusions or predictions

MEAS1: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement:
Grades pre K-5 g. carry out simple unit conversions, such as from centimeters to meters, within a system of measurement

MEAS2: Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements :
Grades pre K-5 c. use tools to measure

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades pre K-5

RP2: Make and investigate mathematical conjectures:
Grades pre K-5

COM2: Communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others:
Grades pre K-5

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take approximately 30-40 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.

Materials for "Balls and Ramp":

The teacher will need:

  • permanent black marker
  • scissors or craft knife
  • round plastic containers (at least 12 cm in diameter; cottage cheese containers work very well)
  • resealable plastic bags (sandwich or snack size)
  • styrofoam balls (the size of golf balls)
  • masking tape

At each station students should have:

  • 3-4 books or blocks of the same thickness
  • round plastic container
  • 30 cm ruler with grooved centers
  • golf ball
  • practice golf ball
  • rubber ball
  • metric tape measure
  • Ball X sealed in a plastic bag

Advance Preparation:

Plastic container:

  • cut a small hole in the rim of the plastic cup to allow enough room for the balls to roll inside. (see the diagrams below)

  • All of the balls should be approximately the same size.
  • The grooved ruler serves as the ramp for rolling the balls down (wood or plastic).
  • The tape measure is taped to the table top at the foot of the ruler ramp out in a straight line. Metric tape measures can be purchased from any science supply company or fabric store.
  • Label the resealable plastic bags "Ball X", place one styrofoam ball in each bag and seal the bags.

Diagram of student set up:


  • 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.


  • To expand and target the specific NCTM standard(s) to be measured, ask students to carry out simple unit conversions.
  • Ask students to carry out simple unit conversions.
  • Rubric language should be expanded and targeted to the specific NCTM standard(s) to be measured.


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