Universal Constants: A New Foundation of Measurement    >   Standardize - Achieve Precision

Journal Thread #2 / Prompt 2 - How Close?

Watch the NIST Role Models discuss the importance of standardization, then consider how you would handle measurement in several experiments.

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Title of Activity: Journal Thread #2 / Prompt 2 - How Close?

Brief Description: Students consider how the desired degree of precision varies by the stated goal of the project or research.

Target Grade Level: Grades 8-12

Discipline or Course: Physical Science

Estimated Time Required: 20 minutes

Individual / Partner / Group Work: Individual

Key Vocabulary:

  • Precision
  • Tolerance
  • Error bar

Teacher Prep:

This journal prompt asks students to think about the idea that different levels of precision are needed for different tasks. The options include measurements of length, concentration, time, and energy. To understand the graph, provide concrete examples.

Possible Rubric

Area Novice Average Advanced
Constructing Arguments Does not identify a measurement unit Makes a vague reference to a measurement unit Identifies a measurement unit with support
Communicating Information No discussion of precision Mention of precision without supporting arguments Specific references to precision and clear supporting arguments
Identification of arguments based on evidence No discussion of importance of precision Precision defined or described without examples Precision defined with examples    


Watch the NIST Role Models discuss standardization.

NIST Role Models - Standardization Is Key

Before scientists begin any research, they think about how they will define “success.” You start with an expectation (a hypothesis). Then you think about how close your data would have to be in order for you to feel comfortable using that data to argue that you were right.

Imagine you were investigating each of the following questions. What measurement would you use? How close would your measurement have to be in order for you to feel comfortable arguing that your hypothesis was correct? Frame your argument as: “I believe that (the hypothesis) is supported because…”

  1. Using home compost will increase the growth of my bean plants in the third week of growth.
  2. Vitamin D in specified doses shortens recovery time from influenza in adolescents.
  3. Black roofing materials reduce the energy requirements for home heating in northern states.