Rice in a box

Spoon workshop proposal – teacher training proposed by the Croatian spooners

Title: Research elements in classroom: STEM 2.0 – Stimulating, Team, Experimental and Motivating teaching

Duration: 4 hr

Number of participants: 20

Aims: Realize how research practice and research values can be implemented in teaching within classroom environment. Realize that pupils high cognitive activation can be achieved with low budget materials and approaches. Introduce the concept of backward teaching design. Realize the importance of model development in research practice. Realize importance of observation, assumption, exploration, discovery, testing and communication in scientific method. Inspire the teachers to reshape theirteaching backwards in order not to serve to them what they they should know but to motivate them to want to know. Realize the importance of errors and its impacts in teaching and learning processes.

Reinvestment of the activity by French spooners

Activity 3: “Rice in a box” 

(see Bojan MARKICEVIC and Suncan STILINOVIC’s document):

This very interesting activity was tested during the training Quantities, Measurements and Instrumentation.

The strong points:

– Fun and pleasant activity to do;

– Easy to set up;

– Discusses concepts common to mathematics and physics (length, volume, counting, etc.);

– Allows to discuss the notion of estimating a quantity;

– Develops creativity and ingenuity.


– Some students tend to count the entire number of rice grains. If they are made to count several full boxes, they are well aware not only of the tedious aspect, but also of the fact that the result varies from one box to another. This makes it easier for them to accept that a well done estimate is just as reliable and much more effective than a systematic method;

– For those who cling to the idea of counting, it is enough to switch to the notion of “big box”. (typically 1 m3). Let’s estimate the number of matchboxes contained in 1 m3, then estimate the time it takes to count the rice grains to fill this volume. This should deter them….

– Biological colleagues will find techniques used to count cells, bacteria, etc.

This type of activity is also found in mathematics, where there are confetti, for example.

– The available equipment (scales, syringes, etc.) is visible from the beginning of the sequence. This has a significant impact on the participants’ research directions. We must therefore decide in advance whether this is what we want. This is plausible, if we want to save time and avoid that it “goes in all directions”, but it also restricts creativity. To avoid this, I propose 2 variants:

 * keep additional objects hidden and only offer them on request;

 * add a large number of objects of which we do not see the interest a priori. My experience has shown me that participants take hold of everything we offer them; they always find a use that you hadn’t thought of yourself!

– My colleague Jean-Christophe GRIMONT indicates another interest in this activity: the fact that there is no “correct answer” prevents the teacher from being in the situation of telling a student “you are right / you are wrong”. 

As a result, the student is obliged to argue and convince others of the validity of the method he or she has chosen. This promotes the communication aspects of science.

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