Searching For Sea Stars: Developing Meaningful Questions Based on Data

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SWBAT locate, record and interpret information from a scientific database and record that data on a graph after rounding to the nearest ten. They will ask quantitative and qualitative questions related to the data represented on the graph.

Big Idea

Learn how data can guide us to ask different types of mathematical questions!


8 minutes

Ask students to think silently (at least 25 second wait time) and then explain any or all of the following to a neighbor or written down on paper:

  • What is the strategy for rounding to the closest ten?
  • What is a database?
  • What are the benefits to having 10 meter intervals on the graph? 
  • What are the disadvantages?
  • What does a double bar graph demonstrate (comparison!) that is harder to see when the two data sets are placed on separate graphs?

Independent Graph Practice (Rounding to Closest Ten)

30 minutes

I split the data about sea stars into four sections so that four different groups could work with four different sets of information.  This is optional.  The students can all work with one set of data! 

So, I give students the 4 different sections of the graph and data sheet.  They will round the shallowest and greatest depths to the closest ten and then record this data on their section of the graph.  At the end of the activity, the 4 graphs will be attached together with the one we did yesterday as a class.

There is a period in this activity where the children will just be coloring in the squares, but this should not be considered busywork coloring.  It is very intentional.  It will give them a kinisthetic sense of how much larger numbers in the thousands are than numbers in the hundreds.

Section A:

Data Sheet 1 for "Searching for Sea Stars" - a Place Value Lesson for 3rd Grade

Graph to Accompany Data Sheet 1 (Searching for Sea Stars - A Place Value Lesson)

Section B:

Data Sheet 2 for "Searching for Sea Stars" - a Place Value Lesson for 3rd Grade

Graph to Accompany Data Sheet 2 (Searching for Sea Stars - A Place Value Lesson)

Section C: 

Data Sheet 3 for "Searching for Sea Stars" - a Place Value Lesson for 3rd Grade

Graph to Accompany Data Sheet 3 (Searching for Sea Stars - A Place Value Lesson)

Section D:

Data Sheet 4 for "Searching for Sea Stars" - a Place Value Lesson for 3rd Grade

Graph to Accompany Data Sheet 4 (Searching for Sea Stars - A Place Value Lesson)

Asking Questions Related to the Data

15 minutes

The first question I ask students to reflect on is whether or not rounding to the closest ten was effective.  This can lead to a discussion about how hard it is to transfer a visual representation of a large number (coloring squares for every ten up to 5,000) and also a discussion about what information might be lost of we were to redo this as a graph with 100 meter intervals instead of 10 meter intervals.  Then I review different question types with the students.  When reading text we often talk about literal and inferential questions.  I tell them that when reading data, we might talk about specific questions related to the data set as well as more open-ended questions that either relate to the data or are connected to it in some way.

It's exciting to see the types of quantitative questions students come up with, because the ability to ask meaningful and specific questions is at the core of good mathematical and scientific thinking!

How many species of starfish in the world? How old are starfish?  and How did starfish evolve? are just a few of the rich questions my students were able to come up with.  Third graders usually struggle with generating meaningful questions so I was delighted with this lesson!  With this rich scientific context as a basis, they were also able to ask specific questions such as, "Why do some sea stars have their Greatest & Least Depths unknown and  How long do the sea stars at the surface survive??  This amazing student asks a highly detailed question that would make the creators of this database proud!  She could go do research!  How many starfish live between 1,200 (meters) and 1,500?   It also leads into rich questions such as, How did starfish evolve?



6 minutes

I have students complete the  Searching For Sea Stars Questions Day 2 Exit Ticket and have students share their answers to these questions either in writing or verbally.  This lesson is a rich starting point for science lessons about evolution and  adaptations (different ocean environments).