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Making Marbles
Administration Procedures
4th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)


Students study 3 marbles of different sizes. They make observations and measurements, organize their data, and design an experiment to answer questions posed.

The accompanying scenario states:

Super Toys is a company that manufactures toys. The company has been making only the middle-sized marbles you see on your plate. Marbles are made by pouring melted glass into molds. The company melts enough glass in each container to make 100 middle-sized marbles each time. How many small marbles can be made from one container of glass? How many large marbles can be made from one container of glass?

Students are told they may use whatever equipment (from a variety of measuring equipment provided on their table) to do experiments to help answer the questions.

This task is designed to take students approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science
Specific Knowledge Areas:

Properties of objects and materials
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 1: Properties of objects and materials: Grades K-4
1.1 Objects have many observable properties, including size, weight, shape, color, temperature, and the ability to react with other substances. Those properties can be measured using tools, such as rulers, balances, and thermometers.

4 A SI 1: Ability to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4

1.2 Plan and conduct an investigation. In the earliest years, investigations are largely based on systematic observations. As students develop, they may design and conduct simple experiments to answer questions. The idea of a fair test is possible for many students to consider by fourth grade.

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.

1.5 Communicate investigations and explanations. Students should begin developing the abilities to communicate, critique, and analyze their work and the work of other students. This communication might be spoken or drawn as well as written.

(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:

MEAS1: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement:
Grades pre K-5 e. understand such attributes as length, area, weight, volume, and size of angle and select the appropriate type of unit of measuring each attribute.

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

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

General Instructions to the Teacher:

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

Students may work in groups of 4 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise, however each student in the group must fill-out their own Data Sheet.

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 Making Marbles:

At this station students should have:

  • 3 marbles, one small, one middle-sized, one large
  • one plate with rim that will keep marbles from rolling off
  • several kinds of measuring equipment (e.g. rulers, balance, tape measure, etc.)

Advance Preparation:

None is required.


  • 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:

Organize student work station.


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