How Tall Will Your Stack Be?


Give a group of kids a stack of cups and see what happens. Go ahead..... I'll wait.

So, what did they do? They built pyramids or tall stacks racing to make the tallest one- only to find the slightest movement would cause the whole stack to fall!
STEM Challenge: This is one of our favorite lab events- It's all about stacking cups, but also calculating mean, median, mode, and range! The math is used after stacking competitions and is great for group work. Practice those skills, have some fun, and learn!

When this challenge was first considered about two years ago I thought it sounded too much like Minute-to-Win-It! As much as I knew the kids would have fun, I also wanted this to have some educational value! Right? Can't just have fun in school......

So, I wondered if we could add some measuring or probability to the cup stacks and make it an experiment.

Could it possibly also have a design element?

I added the features of calculating mean, median, mode, and range.
Kids start with a couple of performance tasks that involve stacking cups, based on task rules.
STEM Challenge: This is one of our favorite lab events- It's all about stacking cups, but also calculating mean, median, mode, and range! The math is used after stacking competitions and is great for group work. Practice those skills, have some fun, and learn!

Those photos above all show my fourth graders doing the beginning tasks. In the very top photo, they are using 3-ounce white plastic cups.

Now, let me tell you a little secret!
The first time we tried this challenge I used foam cups- because they are really cost efficient.

These cups make spectacular stacks, but there's one BIG PROBLEM!

The static cling of foam cups will make you crazy. I mean bonkers, out of your mind, nuts! Just when the kids would get a stack ready to measure or count, the next cup would make a bunch under it slide and the whole thing would collapse.

We tried wiping them down with dryer sheets and washing our hands and nothing worked! They did get better after being used for about the second time- so I would suggest using OLD cups! 

Or even better, try a plastic cup. We used the smallest plastic cups this year and they worked really well! Check this photo below!
STEM Challenge: This is one of our favorite lab events- It's all about stacking cups, but also calculating mean, median, mode, and range! The math is used after stacking competitions and is great for group work. Practice those skills, have some fun, and learn!

My favorite part of this challenge is allowing the kids to explore with the cups. Before each task begins they have a practice time. This is when they work out a system for stacking the cups and decide how they will work together to get it done!

Is there more to this than just stacking?

Absolutely! The first task has kids work together to stack based on a specific number of cups on the bottom row. They may stack in any arrangement they wish and it is a timed event.
STEM Challenge: This is one of our favorite lab events- It's all about stacking cups, but also calculating mean, median, mode, and range! The math is used after stacking competitions and is great for group work. Practice those skills, have some fun, and learn!




















Another task has the kids predicting how many cups it will take to reach a specific height:

STEM Challenge: This is one of our favorite lab events- It's all about stacking cups, but also calculating mean, median, mode, and range! The math is used after stacking competitions and is great for group work. Practice those skills, have some fun, and learn!

I made marks on our lab tables to use instead of meter sticks- only in the interest of time! You could have kids make their own marks and add even more measurement to this challenge!

So, when does the designing start?

Here you go! This is the most fun part! The last task has kids trying to build a stack, but they have to make it an unusual shape!

The stacks cannot have straight rows of cups and they also have a specific number of cups on the bottom. They work so hard to make their final arrangements different than all the others. But, think about it- tall towers in large cities all have different shapes!

STEM Challenge: This is one of our favorite lab events- It's all about stacking cups, but also calculating mean, median, mode, and range! The math is used after stacking competitions and is great for group work. Practice those skills, have some fun, and learn!

Fabulous challenge!

Overall, it's a really fun activity but has just enough math in it to practice some of your math standards or review them. The kids will work on how to calculate mean, median, mode, and range! And how to stack some cups!

This challenge is also a perfect one for Friday afternoon STEM- easy prep and easy cleanup! You can read more about the Mean, Median, and Mode Challenge right {HERE}.








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