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Tree Study
Administration Procedures

4th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: New Standards (NS)


Students measure a set of objects with a ruler, then represent their data. They identify trends and/or patterns in the data as well as sources of inaccuracy. The students formulate additional questions that could be investigated to enhance their understanding.

The task assesses students' abilities to use tools, gather and analyze data, and develop new questions.

This task is designed to take students approximately 7-10 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Life Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Tools, Trends, Bias

Performance Expectations:

  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data

National Science Education Standards:

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.

4 C LS 1: The characteristics of organisms
Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. For example, humans have distinct body structures for walking, holding, seeing, and talking.

(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 pre K-5 a. sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties.
Grades pre K-5 b. recognize, describe, and extend patterns such as sequences of simple numeric patterns and translate from one representation to another

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

MEAS1: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement:
Grades pre K-5 b. compare and order objects according to these (length, volume, weight, area, and time) attributes
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
Grades pre K-5 d. develop common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates

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

CON3: Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics:
Grades pre K-5

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 7-10 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 Tree Study:

  • Ruler
  • Pencil

Advance Preparation:

  • Be sure that each student has a metric ruler at their desk.


  • 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 represent data in a table.
    - Ask students to measure with paper clips laid end to end.
    - Ask students to carry out simple unit conversions (mm to cm).
  • Rubric language should be expanded and targeted to the specific NCTM standard(s) to be measured.

Advanced Preparation Set Up:

Student needs directions and a ruler.


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