Show an aluminum can. Discuss what students know
about such cans.
- Of what are they made? [Aluminum.]
- What products are sold in similar cans? [Soda, other soft drinks, juice, motor oil.]
- What other products are made of aluminum? [Siding for houses,
rain gutters, silver paint, mirrors, packaging (i.e., aluminum foil),
CD's, and the hood of a Model T Ford.]
- Why is aluminum an important metal? [It's relatively inexpensive, malleable,
Distribute the Aluminum Cans Activity Sheet.
Aluminum Cans Activity Sheet
Allow time for students to record their own numbers, and poll
eight classmates. The data should be recorded in the chart on the
activity sheet. A sample chart is shown below.
|Name ||Number of Aluminum Cans|
Next, each student should create a line plot or bar graph of his
or her data. (Or, you may ask half the class to create each type of
graph. Then, a rich discussion can occur about the differences between
the graphs and the types of information that each shows.) A sample of
each type is shown below; the line plot is on the top, and the bar
graph is below.
Have each student look at the line plot and write several things
that the graph shows. Students should note the range of numbers on
their graphs. Review, as needed, how to figure the mean (average). Have
students compute the mean of their sets of data. They may check their
calculations by using the calculator.
Discuss ways to compare an individual's can use in a day with
the typical American's use of 1500 cans per year (Javna, 1990). Have
students compute per-year use and compare it with 1500. They should
also work with the group mean, figure the number of can used per year
on the basis of this number, and compare the number per year with 1500.
Students should use calculators and may check each other's work.
Students should discuss some things they learned from the activity. Discussion questions could include:
- Were they surprised at their own or the mean for the people they polled?
- What did they learn about the mean as compared with individual numbers in their data sets?
Have students work individually or in small groups to discuss and
write plans for conserving aluminum. A committee should post examples
of the plans; alternatively, have students report the plans to the
- Shaw, Jean M. and Firkins, John. September, 1993. The Arithmetic Teacher. p 27-40.
- Javna, John. 1990. Fifty Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. Kansas City, Mo.; Andrews & McMeel.
- Gather and graph data about aluminum can use
- Interpret data, including figuring and displaying the mean of a set of data
- Develop a plan for future actions
NCTM Standards and Expectations
- Collect data using observations, surveys, and experiments.
- Represent data using tables and graphs such as line plots, bar graphs, and line graphs.
- Compare different representations of the same data and evaluate how well each representation shows important aspects of the data.
Common Core State Standards – Mathematics
Grade 4, Measurement & Data
Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Solve problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions by using information presented in line plots. For example, from a line plot find and interpret the difference in length between the longest and shortest specimens in an insect collection.
Grade 5, Measurement & Data
Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Use operations on fractions for this grade to solve problems involving information presented in line plots. For example, given different measurements of liquid in identical beakers, find the amount of liquid each beaker would contain if the total amount in all the beakers were redistributed equally.