Grade 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: New York State Education Department (NYSED)
NYS Alternative Assessment in Science Project (1996)
Students will determine the mass, volume, and density
of two mineral samples using measurement tools.
This task assesses students' abilities to determine
and record precise measurements of mass and volume, apply mathematics,
calculate density, and give logical, scientific explanations.
This task is designed to take students approximately
20 minutes to complete.
Overall Task Content Area:
- Earth Science
Specific Knowledge Areas:
- Properties and changes of properties in matter
- conducting investigations
- using equipment
- gathering, organizing, and representing data
- formulating conclusions from investigational data
- applying scientific principles to develop explanations
National Science Education Standards:
8 B PS 1: Properties and changes of properties in matter:
1.1 A substance has characteristic properties, such as density,
a boiling point, and solubility, all of which are independent of
the amount of the sample. A mixture of substances often can be separated
into the original substances using one or more of the characteristic
8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry:
1.3 Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze,
and interpret data. The use of tools and techniques, including mathematics,
will be guided by the question asked and the investigations students
design. The use of computers for the collection, summary, and display
of evidence is part of this standard. Students should be able to
access, gather, store, retrieve, and organize data, using hardware
and software designed for these purposes.
1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and
models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on
what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should
be able to differentiate explanation from description — providing
causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence
and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge
base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because
developing explanations establishes connections between the content
of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.
1.5 Think critically and logically to make the relationships
between evidence and explanations. Thinking critically about evidence
includes deciding what evidence should be used and accounting for
anomalous data. Specifically, students should be able to review
data from a simple experiment, summarize the data, and form a logical
argument about the cause-and-effect relationships in the experiment.
Students should begin to state some explanations in terms of the
relationship between two or more variables.
(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page
to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards,
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:
AL2: Represent and analyze mathematical
situations and structures using algebraic symbols:
Grades 6-8 h. use symbolic algebra to represent situations
and to solve problems, especially those that involve linear relationships
MEAS2: Apply appropriate techniques, tools,
and formulas to determine measurements:
Grades 6-8 k. select and apply techniques and tools to accurately
find length, area, volume, and angle measures to appropriate levels
Grades 6-8 o. solve simple problems involving rates and derived
measurements for such attributes as velocity and density
NO1: Understand numbers,
ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number
Grades 6-8 q. understand and use ratios
and proportions to represent quantitative relationships
NO2: Understand meanings
of operations and how they relate to one another:
Grades 6-8 h. understand the meaning and
effects of arithmetic operations with fractions, decimals, and integers
PS3: Apply and adapt a variety of appropriate
strategies to solve problems:
COM1: Organize and consolidate their mathematical
thinking through communication:
CON1: Recognize and use connections among
REP1: Create and use representations to
organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas:
General Instructions to the Teacher:
This task is designed to take approximately 20 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 "Density of Minerals":
The teacher will need:
At each station students should have:
- metric balance
- graduated cylinder (ml)
- overflow cup
- beaker and water
- mineral samples A & B
- paper towels
A. Selection of mineral samples:
The samples must:
- fit the size of the overflow cups
- not be soluble
- be those that students are familiar with
B. Marking samples:
- Use white paint and a fine tip permanent marker
- Mark the samples A1; B1; A2; B2; etc.
C. Measure mass and volume of samples and record data for use
in scoring student work.
- If graduated cylinders are glass, place a small amount of modeling
clay at the bottom of the cylinder to prevent breakage should
a mineral sample be dropped.
- 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.
If small specimens of minerals are available and overflow cups
are not, minerals may be lowered with a string into the graduated
cylinders to get a volume reading.