Emerging Technologies

Nature of Science & Engineering
Interactions Among Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Society

Current and emerging technologies have enabled humans to develop and use models to understand and communicate how natural and designed systems work and interact.

Benchmark: Investigating Systems

Determine and use appropriate safe procedures, tools, measurements, graphs and mathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural and designed systems in a physical science context.

Benchmark: Units of Measurement

Demonstrate the conversion of units within the International System of Units (SI, or metric) and estimate the magnitude of common objects and quantities using metric units.


Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in Lay Terms

We use necessary and appropriate tools along with mathematical models to analyze and communicate phenomena within physical systems.  Humans want to understand how systems, both natural and designed, work and interact.  Models, with the help of improving technology, are developed to help understand those systems.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea

Using appropriate tools and measurements we can describe, represent, and analyze phenomena in the physical world.  Measuring, graphing and analyzing data are used in further understanding of natural and designed systems. We can also create models of the phenomena to better understand them.  The metric (SI) system is the standard language of measurement in science.  Estimating measurements and converting units within the metric system is an important skill in science.  Appropriate safety protocols and equipment must be in place in the science classroom.

Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks  Determine and use appropriate safety procedures, tools, measurements, graphs, and mathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural and designed      systems in a physical science context.  Demonstrate the conversion of units within the International System of Units   (SI or metric) and estimate the magnitude of common objects and quantities using metric units.

The Essentials

  • NSES Standards:

Scientific Inquiry 5-8

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. (p. 145) National Academies Press

USE MATHEMATICS IN ALL ASPECTS OF SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY. Mathematics is essential to asking and answering questions about the natural world. Mathematics can be used to ask questions; to gather, organize, and present data; and to structure convincing explanations. (p. 148 ) National Academies Press

  • AAAS Atlas:

Volume 1, Mathematical Representation:  Graphic Representation, p114-115

NSDL Strand Maps

Volume 2, Habits of Mind:  Computation and Estimation, p. 106-107 and Using Tools and Devices, p. 108-109

NSDL Strand Maps

Benchmarks of Science Literacy:

By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that

Symbolic Relationships

An equation containing a variable may be true for just one value of the variable. 9B/M1

Rates of change can be computed from differences in magnitudes and vice versa. 9B/M2*

Graphs can show a variety of possible relationships between two variables. As one variable increases uniformly, the other may do one of the following: increase or decrease steadily, increase or decrease faster and faster, get closer and closer to some limiting value, reach some intermediate maximum or minimum, alternately increase and decrease, increase or decrease in steps, or do something different from any of these. 9B/M3*

Habits of Mind

Estimate distances and travel times from maps and the actual size of objects from scale drawings. 12B/M5

Use the units of the inputs to a calculation to determine what units (such as seconds, square inches, or dollars per tankful) should be used in expressing an answer. 12B/M7a*

Convert quantities expressed in one unit of measurement into another unit of measurement when necessary to solve a real-world problem. 12B/M7b*

Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices. 12C/M3*

Analyze simple mechanical devices and describe what the various parts are for; estimate what the effect of making a change in one part of a device would have on the device as a whole. 12C/M5*

Select the proper tool for completing a particular task. 12C/M7**

Maintain tools and simple devices so they are in good working order. 12C/M8**

The Nature of Mathematics

Mathematicians often represent things with abstract ideas, such as numbers or perfectly straight lines, and then work with those ideas alone. The "things" from which they abstract can be ideas themselves (for example, a proposition about "all equal-sided triangles" or "all odd numbers"). 2C/M1

When mathematicians use logical rules to work with representations of things, the results may not be entirely valid for the things themselves. 2C/M2a

Using mathematics to solve a problem requires choosing what mathematics to use; probably making some simplifying assumptions, estimates, or approximations; doing computations; and then checking to see whether the answer makes sense. 2C/M2b

Common Core Standards


Students in Grade 6 also build on their work with area in elementary school by reasoning about relationships among shapes to determine area, surface area, and volume.

Language Arts:

L.6.4. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., audience, auditory, audible).

Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).


Student Misconceptions 

Hapkiewicz, A. (1992). Finding a List of Science Misconceptions. MSTA Newsletter, 38 (Winter'92), pp. 11-14.

  • Measurement is only linear.
  • Any quantity can be measured as accurately as you want.
  • Children (and adults) who have used measuring devices at home already know how to measure.
  • The metric system is more accurate than other measurement systems (such as the English system).
  • The English system is easier to use than the metric system.
  • You can only measure to the smallest unit shown on the measuring device.
  • Some objects cannot be measured because of their size or inaccessibility.
  • The five senses are infallible.
  • An object must be "touched" to be measured.
  • A measuring device must be a physical object.
  • Mass and weight are the same and they are equal at all times.
  • Mass and volume are the same.
  • The only way to measure time is with a clock or a watch.
  • Time has an absolute beginning.
  • Heat and temperature are the same.
  • There is only one way to measure perimeter.
  • Only the area of rectangular shapes can be measured in square units.
  • You cannot measure the volume of some objects because they do not have "regular" lengths, widths, or heights.


In Mr. F's science lab students have a variety of tools at their disposal for observing and measuring.  He spends time during the opening week of schools showing the students the strengths and limitations of each tool in different situations.  During these lessons, he demonstrates basic procedures for using each of the instruments and identifies the metric units that each tool measures.  After these demonstrations, he places an item to be measured at each lab station.  Station one has a large rock from the school yard, and students are to determine which tool is needed to measure the mass.  Station two has a basketball from the gymnasium, and students need to determine which tool is most appropriate to measure the circumference.  Station three contains a bucket of rainwater, and students need to determine how to measure the rain.  etc.  A variety of measurement tools, including a tape measure, meter stick, ruler, scale, triple beam balance, and graduated cylinder are located in the front of the classroom.  Mr. F offers time for students to discuss which tool is most appropriate for completing the measurement task.  Once the students have identified the appropriate tool and explained their rationale, he instructs the learning groups to measure the objects.  During the measurement time, Mr. F. is rotating around the stations, making notes of student understanding, misconceptions, and thinking.  He uses the information to direct a large group instruction on appropriate use of tools and and accuracy in measurement.  After a few minutes they rotate stations and try the other items.

The next day Mr. F's student enter the room to find a centimeter ruler and a meter tape, as well as a 25 ml beaker and a 1L beaker.  Next to the measuring tools there is a large bucket of colored water.  Mr. F tells the student that the bucket is filled with a dangerous liquid that should not touch their clothes, skin, or get in their eyes and mouth.  He tells the students they will be working with the liquid, but he's concerned about their safety.  Is there anything they should be using while working with this liquid?  The students list goggles and gloves, so he distributes them to the class. 

He asks the students how they would measure the water in Liters.  Of course they respond with the Liter beaker.  When he asks them how would they measure it in ml, they naturally say the cylinder.  He asks which table thinks they can measure the amount of water in ml the fastest?  A couple groups give it a try with Mr. F timing them.  The class observes how slow each group is as they are being cautious and measuring with such a small tool.  Then Mr. F says he can half the time.  He selects a student to time him and begins to measure--using the liter beaker.  When the students tell him he is using the wrong tool, he just keeps on going, finishing the measuring in less than half the time.  He then goes to the board, writes down the number of liter and moves the decimal three spots to the right.  He has his ml measurement!

He closes the lesson by explaining the procedure and converting units, then sets the student to work measuring the length and width of the classroom with the meter stick and converting that into centimeters and millimeters.

Mr. F uses these lessons at the start of every year to familiarize the students with the tools they will be using all year long.


Instructional Notes 

Selected Labs and Activities and  Length, Mass, Volume

Gummy Bear Lab

In this lab, students gather data regarding the length, mass and volume of a common piece of candy.  A variable is changed to the candy's environment, and new measurements are recorded.  Opportunities for students to examine the relationships between measurements are also offered.

Metric Mania Lesson Plans

The website provides a variety of lesson plans that are specific to sixth grade measurement standards.  The lesson plans  vary in the tools being used and the units being studied.

U.S. Metric Association Tips for Educators

This webpage includes a series of tips for educators who are teaching measurement standards in the classroom.  The tips include best practices and lab ideas.

Measurement Conversion Game Instructions and Measurement Conversion Game Board

In this game, students use a die, a game board marker,  and a conversion chart to maneuver the game board and complete measurement conversion problems.

Lessons and activities regarding safety can be found at Flinn Scientific (see additional resources).

Instructional suggestions/options

A fourth grade common core standard related to measurement says, "4.MD.4. 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.  Build upon this standard in teaching students the new concepts.

A fifth grade common core math standard related to this sixth grade science standard says, "5.MD.1. Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems."  Build upon this standard in teaching the new concepts. and  "Geometry and measurement concepts are best learned through real-world experiences and problems."

Zemelman, S., Daniels, H., & Hyde, A. (2005). Best practice: today's standards for teaching and learning in America's schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.  Students need to measure objects for a specific purpose.  They should determine for themselves what needs to be measured and select the appropriate tool for measurement.  Give students a chance to observe and talk with one another about which tool is most efficient.

With this standard it is beneficial to touch base with your math department and see how they are teaching measurement, graphing, and analysis. Make sure you are in agreement about using the same names for specific tools to avoid confusion with students.  Try to coordinate the teaching of specific units so that students are using the tools and skills at similar times in different contexts.  If you are a 6th grade teacher in an elementary school, look into integration of your math measurement, graphing, statistics, materials into your science time.   

Instructional Resources 

Additional resources or links Resource:

Ohaus Triple Beam Balance Tutorial

This tutorial is appropriate to use on a SmartBoard with students who are learning how to measure with a triple beam balance for the first time. Resource:

Smartboard tools for linear measurement

Use these tools to demonstrate and model linear measurements on the SmartBoard.

Flinn Scientific Safety Videos and Demos

Flinn Scientific has a number of resources available from videos, demos of lessons on safety, safety contracts, and a safety quiz.

Consumer Product Safety Commission provides an outline of rules and responsibilities for teachers in their science labs

New Vocabulary 


Volume: A measurement of the size of an object in three-dimension space

Mass:  A measure of the amount of matter in an object.

Weight: A measure of the gravitational force on an object; its value can change with the location of the object in the universe.

Grams: The metric unit used to measure mass.  A milligram is one thousandth of a gram, a centigram is one hundredth of a gram, and a kilogram is one thousand grams.

Celsius:  The metric unit for measuring temperature

Newtons: The metric unit used to measure force. 

Liters: Metric unit used to measure the volume of a liquid.  A milliliter is one thousandth of a liter,

 Meter:  The metric unit used for linear measurement.  A millimeter is one thousandth of a meter, a centimeter is one hundredth of a meter and a kilometer is one thousand meters.

Spring Scale: Tool used to measure weight (force)

Triple Beam Balance: Tool used to measure mass

Graduated Cylinder: Tool used to measure volume of a liquid.

Mean:  The sum of values divided by the number of values

Median:  The numeric value that separates the high end of a list of data from the low end of the list.  It can be found by arranging the data in order and finding the value in the middle.

Range:  The difference between the highest and the lowest values in a set.

Technology Connections 

Vernier Data collection equipment provides real-time measurements in graphical format.  This might be used to expose students to digital technologies related to                 measurement.

Cross Curricular Connections 

Language Arts:  Have students write directions for a measuring tool or another tool in the lab for someone who has never used it before.



Analysis:  Compare and contrast density, mass, and volume.

Application:  Identify a situation in which it would be more important to understand the volume of an object than the mass of an object.


Analysis:  Why is it important for scientists to agree on one system of measurement?

Assessment of Teachers

Questions could be used as self-reflection or in professional development sessions.

Throughout the school year, measurement skills will be utilized in science labs.  How and when will you directly teach and formally assess measurement skills

How much error in measurement is acceptable, and in what situations is it acceptable?


Struggling Learners 

Struggling and At-Risk

Determine measurement misconceptions by providing multiple formative assessments.  Utilize the data from the formative assessments to direct the focus of the lessons.

Play a "measurement olympics" game.  Students might measure the length of their long jump, the mass of their pencil case, etc. 

English Language Learners 

Make sure that tools in the lab are properly labeled, and that word walls with tool vocabulary have pictures of the tools next to them.  Measurement systems may be new to some of our ELL students, especially non-metric measurement.  Some front loading of instruction of how to use these tools may be required.

Extending the Learning 

Have students develop their own system of measurement for linear measurement and volume.  Challenge students to communicate the magnitude of a classroom object to someone in another school using their system of measurement.  Have students think through the steps that would have to go into place to make this successful.  Follow up with having students research measurement systems of the past and how they were developed. (Such as a Galileo thermometer)


Examine other cultures ways of measuring, and measurement systems of the past.

Look at tools used be other cultures for measuring and examining phenomena.

Special Education 

Teach one measurement skill at a time, and allow ample practice before providing a summative assessment.  Practice measuring objects with whole number measurements first.  (Ex:  6 cm, as opposed to 6.3 cm.)  When students demonstrate an understanding of the measurement tools and process, expand to measuring to the nearest tenth of a cm, etc.


Classroom Observation 


If observing a lesson on this standard what might they expect to see.

Students should be working in learning groups, predicting measurements of common objects, and then utilizing a variety of measurement tools, such as triple-beam balances, meter sticks, and graduated cylinders to make accurate measurements.  Learners should be able to use the measurement tools with accuracy.  The teacher should be checking for understanding of the measurement terms and measuring methods.


Encourage parents to use metric measurements around the house when building.  Many liquid measuring cups have both metric and standard volume measurements on them.  As a family, take a simple recipe and convert it to metric amounts using the measuring cup to estimate the conversions.

Have students measure their bedrooms and find out the area and perimeter.  They can then convert the measurements from meters, to centimeters, to kilometers without remeasuring--just moving the decimal.  Do the same thing with the volume of the room.



Is there a way to print these pages without all of the links printing as well?

Error in Link

Wrong link for Measurement Conversion Game Instructions. You get the Gummy Bear Lab