ALEX Learning Activity


Cup Stacking Challenge: Data Collection

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Samantha Wallace
System:Limestone County
School:Cedar Hill Elementary School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 2442
Cup Stacking Challenge: Data Collection
Digital Tool/Resource:
Data Collection Sheet
Web Address – URL:

In this activity, the students will be collecting data by timing how long it takes to stack cups. They will use the data to create a dot plot, histogram, and box plot.

This activity results from the ALEX Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
MA2015 (2016)
Grade: 6
28 ) Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots. [6-SP4]

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
4DASP1b: For a given set of data, complete a graph (limits of time make it difficult to construct graphs completely).

NAEP Statement::
8DASP1b: For a given set of data, complete a graph and then solve a problem using the data in the graph (histograms, line graphs, scatterplots, circle graphs, and bar graphs).

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.6.28- Interpret numerical data on a dot plot or histogram.

Learning Objectives:

The students will be able to display numerical data using dot plots, histograms, and box plots.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

This activity can be used as a performance-based task for an engaging way to assess mastery of the standard.  It can also be used as a guided/independent practice activity.

  • Begin by showing a promo video for a cup stacking competition to build student interest.  
  • Tell the students they are going to practice cup stacking as a data collection activity and that they will be creating graphs to represent the data.
  • Put the students in groups of 3-4 and give each group a copy of the data collection sheet, 12 cups, and a timer. The official cup stacking sequence is to make a 3-6-3 stack (three pyramids), a 6-6 stack (two pyramids), a 1-10-1 stack (two single cups and one pyramid), and a final 3-6-3 stack again. This can be complicated, so you may want to adjust the requirements depending on the students. For example, you may want to do only the 6-6 stack and then back down, or just the 3-6-3 stack sequence twice.
  • Each person in the group should get a chance to stack the cups. To save time, you can quickly give each student in the group a number to decide the turn order. Make sure the students are properly timing and recording each trial. The students should complete at least 20 attempts to fill in the data collection sheet.
  • After collecting the data, the students should use the blank graph sheet to make a histogram, a box plot, and a dot plot of the cup stacking data. (If this is an assessment, the students can complete the graph work individually -- just make sure they each have a copy of the data.)
  • Display the completed graphs in the room and give students time to examine them. Discuss the similarities and differences between each groups' graphs, as well as any outliers or trends in the data.
Assessment Strategies:

Evaluate the completed graphs to check for accurate data displays. Check students' work to be sure the data was appropriately ordered, averaged, and represented on the graphs.

Advanced Preparation:

  • Each group of 3-4 students will need a copy of the data collection sheet, a copy of the blank graph sheet, 12 cups, and a timer. Any type of cup will work, and students can use computers, iPads, or cell phones as a timer if handheld timers are not available.
  • The teacher will need a laptop and projector to show the intro video clip (optional).
  • Students should be familiar with how to make a histogram, box plot, and dot plot before completing this activity.
Variation Tips (optional):

The students may struggle with setting up the intervals on the graphs. As an accommodation, the blank graphs can be modified to have the appropriate axes labeled before being copied and given to the students. The teacher can also guide the students through choosing the appropriate intervals after the data has been collected.

This activity can be adapted to fit any timed or measured event (paper airplane racing, bottle flipping, or any "minute to win it" type game).


Notes or Recommendations (optional):
  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: box plot, central tendency, data collection, dot plot, graph, histogram, statistics