1. Organising an investigation

Any investigation needs to be planned and conducted carefully, otherwise the results might be incorrect or unreliable. In Activity 1 you will look at a statement that needs to be shown to be right or wrong. Make sure your pupils have all they need before they start an investigation, and that they understand the task before they begin. Your role is to support them as they work by asking questions to stimulate their thinking and encouraging them to develop their ideas.

Case Study 1: Using questions to prepare for a practical investigation

Mrs Mwakapenda in South Africa wanted to give her pupils a practical investigation on length to find out who was the tallest or shortest in the class.

She prepared some questions for them to ensure that they understood the task properly. She began her lesson by discussing the questions with the whole class (see Resource 1: Sample questions). She was aware that the investigation was not just about measuring. It was also about collecting and recording data. She wanted to make sure her pupils understood exactly what it would involve.

After the investigation, Mrs Mwakapenda was very pleased with what her pupils had achieved. They had shown that they knew how to organise an investigation. They carried out a fair test and measured the distances well, too.

Activity 1: Who can jump the furthest?

Begin by asking your pupils to consider the following statement and discuss (in groups of four) how they would investigate whether it is true.

‘A tall person can jump further than a short person.’

Each group needs access to a tape measure or ruler or some other means of measuring e.g. string or rope. Discuss how they might answer the question and agree on a process. This might be like this:

  • take two measurements for each person and measure everyone in the group;
  • measure height by standing against a scale on a wall which you made before the lesson;
  • the jump must be a ‘standing’ jump – the person stands on a line, and then jumps as far as they can;
  • measure the length of the jump using a tape measure or string etc.

Ask the groups to discuss how they can show their results (see Resource 2: Two ways to check). Ask them if their measurements agree with the statement. If not, can they rewrite the statement to match their results?

Section 5: Investigating distance

2. Letting pupils plan their investigations