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Magnetic Mapping
Administration Procedures
4th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)


The exercise is intended to show students how a compass can be affected by placing it near different objects. The students are given a penny and a bar magnet and asked to place these items, one at a time, in the center of a shaded rectangle. The compass is to be placed at five different points around the shaded rectangle. The students are asked to draw arrows to show the direction the compass needle is pointing with each object.

Students will be working in groups of 4-6 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise. Each student must record the information in his or her own booklet (test papers). Allow from 20 to 25 minutes to complete the group work, and a similar time period for students to write their individual answers to the test questions.

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

Overall Task Content Area:
Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:


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:

4 B PS 3: Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism: Grades K-4
3.4 Magnets attract and repel each other and certain kinds of other materials.

4A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4
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 see the full text of related National Science Education Standards.)

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

PS1: Build new mathematical knowledge through problem solving:
Grades pre K-5

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

COM1: Organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking through communication:
Grades pre K-5

Materials for "Magnetic Mapping":

At this station students should have:

  • 1 compass
  • 1 bar magnet
  • 1 penny
  • 1 pen or pencil
  • 1 colored pencil

Students should be instructed to orient their maps so that the top of the magnetic map points to the direction North. This is necessary so that the arrows already marked on the magnetic map point in the same direction as the compass does when the penny is placed on the map.

Advance Preparation:

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.

Students should be instructed to keep the penny and the magnet on the floor besides their desk when these objects are not being tested on the magnetic map.


  • 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.


  • Task does not easily lend itself to including mathematical criteria in the rubric.

Advanced Preparation Set Up:

Determine North for the classroom.

Align North on direction sheet to North in classroom.

Tape directions to desk.

Organize student work station.



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