Measuring and thinking mathematically about a problem is crucial part of Maths education. However often we do not collect enough real interesting data to capture the students imagination. The following basic tools can be used to gain data which will motivate students:
1. Stop Watches
These can be used for a whole load of time based activities some of the ones which I find are useful are:
a) How quickly can you sort objects based on criteria
b) What is the length of time you can hold your breath
c) How long can you hold up a textbook with your arm outstretched
d) How quickly can a group form a hexagon using rods
e) Counting breaths in a minute before and after exercise. Then teach meditation breath control and see if the students can reach 3 breaths a minute. Have students work in pairs for this exercise.
f) Races involving balancing something ( like a book on your head) can give good data and be a fairly even activity for the class.
I think I could go on forever on this one, however what I have learnt is that data based on themseleves is much more gripping. Obviously in all the above cases the data is collected and processed to create graphs, averages, range etc…. The only thing I find does not work is straight racing as this just favours the few who are very fast.