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


In this task students will determine that a complete circuit is needed to light the bulbs, experiment with the boards to develop strategies for finding where the hidden connections are, and develop strategies that can be used to efficiently solve circuit problems other than on a circuit board.

Groups of students will use a battery pack and bulb to study an electrical circuit board that is open underneath to expose connections between some of the contacts on top of the board. From this experience they will proceed to a closed board to use observations of the surface connections that make the bulb light to decide what the hidden connections under the board must be. Individuals will describe strategies that they think are best for investigating the structure of the hidden wires in the circuit board and in other electrical systems.

This task is designed to take students approximately 45 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 A SI 1: Science as 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.

1.5 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.

4 B PS 3: Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism: Grades K-4
3.3  Electricity in circuits can produce light, heat, sound, and magnetic effects. Electrical circuits require a complete loop through which an electrical current can pass.

(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:

AL3: Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships:
Grades pre K-5 b. model problem situations with objects and use representations such as graphs, tables, and equations to draw conclusions.

DAP1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them:
Grades pre K-5 d. design investigations to address a question and consider how data collection methods affect the nature of the data set

RP3: Develop and evaluate mathematical arguments and proofs:
Grades pre K-5

COM3: Analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of others:
Grades pre K-5

REP1: Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas:
Grades pre K-5

General Instructions to the Teacher:

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

Students may work in groups of 4 (3-5) for the experiment/activity part of this exercise. Students work together for up to 30 minutes. They are instructed to notify you when finished with the group work, and then to go on to the individual work. If students are still working together 30 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 15 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 "Pathfinder":

At this station students should have:

  • An open circuit board ("practice board") made so that connections under the board between some of the contacts on top may be studied
  • A closed circuit board ("puzzle boad") with an unknown pattern of connections between some of the contacts on top.
  • A "tester" consisting of a battery pack connected to a light bulb with two flexible wire leads with clip ends.
  • A supply of flexible wires with clips that can be connected to the contacts on the board.
  • pencils
  • scratch paper

Advance Preparation:

Be certain that the batteries are fresh and that the bulbs are good before beginning this task.

Note: After the group work is done, each student will need to be provided with an additional "puzzle" board (different from the one used for the group work) in order to complete the individual work portion of the test.


  • 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:

Make sure that all bulbs and batteries work before test.

Use circuit boards where the connections can be viewed on one side.

Each student will need 3 boards- 2 which are covered with an index card.

For each student label one board"puzzle" and one board "new puzzle.

Prepare student work station.

Make sure that apparatus works.


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