Skip to Content

Mini-Labs for Calculating Error and Percent Error

Before taking our quiz in physical science over error and percent error, I wanted to give my students a last chance to get some practice and ask questions.  I decided the best way to use our time was to do two mini labs.  I have to get creative with my labs for this class because I am teaching a science class in a room that was definitely NOT designed to teach science in.  Plus, I’m a math teacher who just happens to be teaching one period of physical science each day.

error and percent error labs text with calculator in background

I decided we would do a quick estimation of length and time.  We glued our results in our notebooks.  Here’s how mine turned out:

estimating length and estimating time mini labs for calculating error and percent error.

For the estimating length activity, I asked my students to estimate the width of their desk in centimeters.  My students told me that they couldn’t visualize in centimeters and begged to use meters instead.  To help them, I held up a measuring tape and showed them what 10 cm looked like.

Once everyone had recorded their estimate, I passed out measuring tapes, and we got to measuring.

tub of cloth tape measures.
student measuring desk with tape measure.

The fact that our “measured value” was actually our “estimated value” and our “actual value” was actually a value that we measured got a bit confusing.  If I end up teaching physical science again, I’ll definitely spend some time thinking about how to make this less confusing.

estimating length mini lab for calculating error and percent error.

I had a 13.12% error when I estimated the width of the desk.

Next, I had my students estimate a length of time.

estimating time mini lab for calculating error and percent error.

I set up a stopwatch on my SMARTBoard.  Students closed their eyes.  When I said “Go” they started trying to estimate how long 60 seconds was.  When they thought 60 seconds had elapsed, they opened their eyes and recorded how many seconds had actually elapsed.

timer on smartboard screen.

Silly me didn’t participate in this along with my students.  I was writing up my notebook page as they were taking their quiz.  I had to tell them that if they looked up and saw that their teacher had her eyes closed that I was NOT sleeping!  I was trying to see how well I could estimate a minute.  Luckily, that made them laugh.  Hopefully, they didn’t go home and say their teacher was sleeping during class.  😉

Here’s the sticky note I left in my copy of my INB to remind me what I need to change in the future:

note to future self in interactive notebook.

More Labs and Activities


Friday 7th of September 2018

I just stumbled upon these when looking for something fun to do to teach % error during these hot days. Thanks for sharing, they look awesome!

Comments are closed.