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Lesson Plans
Significant What?
This lesson is written by Master Teacher Nancy N. Miller.
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 Two or Three 45-minute lessons


"Are your measurements accurate?" "How precise is that measurement?" Many students read these two questions as asking the same thing. This lesson will help them differentiate between accuracy and precision. They will first be introduced to the topics with a short series of hands-on activities. These activities are followed with a short video lesson to help your students further understand the concepts of accuracy and precision. The final portion of this lesson is a heavily graphic, Internet-based activity, during which the students will practice what they have learned. Opportunities for tutorial work and assessment are included on the Web sites.

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:

  • Define accuracy and precision, and differentiate between the two terms

  • Apply the concepts of accuracy and precision to a given situation

  • Correctly apply the concept of significant figures to measurement and mathematics operations


New York State Standards

  1. Students will use mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design, as appropriate, to pose questions, seek answers, and develop solutions.

  2. Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.

  3. Students will understand mathematics and become mathematically confident by communicating and reasoning mathematically, by applying mathematics in real-world settings, and by solving problems through the integrated study of number systems, geometry, algebra, data analysis, probability, and trigonometry.
National Council for the Teachers of Mathematics Standards

Data Analysis and Probability

Instructional programs from pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to:

  • Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them;

  • Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data;

  • Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data; understand and apply basic concepts of probability.

Instructional programs from pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to:

  • Organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking through communication;

  • Communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others;

  • Analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of others; use the language of mathematics to express mathematical ideas precisely.

Instructional programs from pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to:

  • Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas;

  • Select, apply, and translate among mathematical representations to solve problems; use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena.
Media Components


World of Chemistry #3: "Measurement"

Web Sites:

Antoine Uncertainty in Measurement Tutorial
This site provides an interactive look at precision and significant figures in measuring applications. The students are taken through a tutorial designed with appropriate feedback and remediation at each level.

Antoine Significant Figures Quiz
The Antoine site provides a randomly generated quiz for students to test their application knowledge of significant figures, accuracy, and precision.


Per student:
  • Copy of all handouts included in this lesson
Per pair of students:
  • Three to four colors of magic markers
  • computer with Internet access
Per class:
  • Five to six velcro-type dart board game sets (available at Toys R Us).