Arm Span Day 1

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SWBAT: • Measure to the nearest centimeter. • Calculate the median, mean, quartiles, and interquartile range of a data set. • Use Excel to input, analyze, and display data.

Big Idea

What is your arm span? What is the distribution of arm spans for our class? Students measure arm spans of the class and start a two day project to use Microsoft Excel to input and analyze data.

Do Now

7 minutes

See my Do Now in my Strategy folder that explains my beginning of class routines.

Often, I create do nows that have problems that connect to the task that students will be working on that day.  Today I want students to analyze a graph in order to answer questions. Each edition of Scholastic News  typically includes a graph at the end each edition.

I ask for students to share their thinking.  Students are engaging in MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Arm Span

5 minutes

I have a volunteer read the definition of arm span.  I encourage students to create questions about arm span.

Some questions that may come up are:

  • What is the average arm span of the class?
  • What is the median arm span of the class?
  • What’s the range of arm spans for this class?
  • What is the longest arm span in the class?
  • Are there differences between the arm spans for boys and girls?
  • Are arm spans different for students of different ages?
  • How do the arm spans of students in this class compare to the arm spans of students in other 6th grade classes?

I explain that we will be measuring the arm span of each student in the class.  We will be able to address questions that require the arm span measurements for the class.  

Collecting Data

15 minutes


  • Before this lesson I Create Heterogeneous Groups of 3-4 students.
  • Each group will require tool to measure the arm span.  I give each group a flexible measuring tape that has inches on one side and centimeters on the other side.

I ask students to independently read the three questions and jot down notes.  Students participate in a Think Pair Share.  I call on students to share their ideas.  I want students to lead the conversation to ensure that each group is collecting accurate data.

Some issues that may come up:

  • How can we ensure that a student’s arms are parallel to the floor?
  • Are we measuring arm span in inches or inches?
  • How can you make sure your partner’s measurement is accurate?
  • How can you and your group work together to be efficient and accurate?

I make a list of procedures on the board, so groups can reference them when they are measuring.  I tell my students to use centimeters when measuring.   I pass out materials and students work on measuring the arm spans of their group members.  Students are engaging in MP5: Use appropriate tools strategically and MP6: Attend to precision.

When they are finished, they will come up to the front and record their data on my copy of the “Class Data” page.  Then students will take a seat and copy the class data on their own papers.

Using Excel to Analyze Data Sets

20 minutes


  • This lesson is the beginning of a two day lesson involving using Microsoft Excel.  Most of my students have little to no experience using Microsoft Excel.  You may want to adjust this lesson if this is not the case for your students.
  • This lesson requires laptops.  Depending on the number of laptops you have, you can give one laptop to each group, or you can have each student work on their own laptop.
  • This You Tube video shows two ways to create a box plot using Excel.  I have create step by step instructions for students to create the 2nd type of box plot mentioned in this video.
  • Look at my sample worksheet to see what students should create.

I pass out laptops to students.  Most of my students have little to no experience with Microsoft Excel.  Because of this, I walk through inputting and analyzing the sample data with students using my own screen as a model.  If there are students who have more experience with Microsoft Excel, they can use the directions to move at their own pace through the steps. Students are engaging in MP5: Use appropriate tools strategically, MP6: Attend to precision, and MP8: Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Being able to input and analyze data using Microsoft Excel is an important skill that students will use throughout their school careers and beyond.  I want students to observe the advantages and disadvantages of using Microsoft Excel.  I also want students to see the connection between formulas.  For instance, I want students to understand that the lower quartile represents the median of the lower 50% of the data. This means that the lower quartile represents the first 25% of the data, which connects to the Excel formula.

If I have time, I go through “Creating a(n imperfect Box Plot” with students.  

Closure and Homework

3 minutes

We will continue working on these topics in the next lesson, Arm Span Day 2.  For closure, I ask students to brainstorm advantages and disadvantages of using Microsoft Excel to analyze data.  Students participate in a Think Pair Share.  I call on students to share out their thoughts.  I want students to recognize that it can save time when calculating statistics measures such as average and median.  I also want students to recognize that it is not fully capable of easily creating all types of graphs, such as box plots and stem-and-leaf plots.

I pass out the Homework.