Fractions and Line Plots - an Explosive Connection

Common Core Alignment: (4.MD.4, 5.MD.2) Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, ¼, 1/8). Solve problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions by using information presented in line plots.

exploding soda with mentos


Supplies: Mentos, 4 different (2 liter bottle) sodas for each group, graph paper, sharpies, markers/rulers, safety goggles, journal page (2-sided)

Lesson: (time: 3- 1 hour sessions):

1)  Address: Essential Question: How can you use data to draw conclusions?

2)  Ask students: Which soda will make the best explosion?

  • What is best?
  • How do we measure best? (length of explosion, height, ferocity?)
  • Listen to all ideas and discuss pro’s/con’s of measuring each.
  • Guide students to judge best on the soda with the least amount remaining in bottle (with respect to how much was in the bottle to start) after explosion is finished.

3)  Discuss the need for precision when measuring. Students will need to mark the line where the soda started – everyone has a different “one whole” but the fraction of the whole can mean about the same thing.  

  • How can we mark some common fractions on the bottle before we start? Use centimeter rulers and measure ½ way mark and then ¼ and ¾. Keep going for 1/8 and hopefully 1/16. Make sure students mark on sharpie and label the bottles. Have groups rotate and check each others work (scientists always try to validate their work).
  • When doing a scientific experiment I need to attend to different things so that I can ensure that my experiment can be duplicated and that it starts to narrow down the “challenges” to the experiment.   We have to always use the same number of Mentos in each bottle and not shake them (keeping variables the same).   Use the same soda through-out (7-up, etc), and we have different tries for each soda type to make sure that one didn’t operate as an outlier.

4)  Perform experiment.

5)  Students gather data on their soda. How much in fractions is left in the bottle after the experiment. (write on the journal page)   Have groups check one another and discuss agreements/disagreements.

6)  How can you make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions?Setting up a line plot with fractions

  • Graph your results (color code each soda).
  • Discuss line plots and labels. 


  • Students create a line plot of their data on their reflection paper.
  • Have students reflect on their prediction with respect to the data that they gathered.

7)  Ask the students, “How can we look at everyone’s data to determine a larger prediction?”

  • How can we examine everyone’s data together (on the same graph).
  • Make a large color-coded student graph with all of the data.
  • Ask the students to make Notices and wonders about all the data put together.
  • Guide students to create an average fraction for each soda can (possibly create median, mode, and range)
  • How does the data with all the groups change your reflection on your prediction?

8)  As a fun finish to the lesson, you can show this wonderful you-tube video using Diet Coke and Mentos.


 Student journal work on line plots

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