The Great Chain Race- A STEM Challenge

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Today in math, we incorporated one of my favorite things to do, a STEM Challenge.  Students love STEM challenges! I love to watch them, collaborate and discuss how to efficiently construct, while trying to win a challenge.

The objective of today's challenge was to create the longest paper chain using 1 sheet of 12 x 18 construction paper.  I allowed students to pick their group.  At the first of the year, kids always pick their friends.  As we have been doing this throughout the year, the students no longer gravitate towards their friends, rather they pick kids they know they will be a resource to their group.

After they pick their groups of 3 (I had a couple groups of 4 because of an odd man out), students were given a handout with the objective of the challenge.  To download your own copy of the handout click here- Great Chain Race Handout

I handed out 1 sheet of paper (each group got a different color), 1 pair of scissors and 1 stick of glue to each group.  I set the timer and students had 60 minutes to build the longest chain.  My blocks are 90 minutes so doing this for an hour allowed us to have 30 minutes left over to go onto part 2 of the handout.  If you have a shorter class, you could always set the timer for less.

Students worked well in groups and every group came up with a plan and jobs for each person.  I am amazed at the different strategies that emerged!

Some students tried little rings, some tried large, skinny rings, some tried many different types of rings in their chain.

After the 60 minutes expired, we went out to the hall and lined all the chains up on the floor.  This comparison determined the winner.

Part 2 of the handout is measuring the chains.  Each group rotated and measured every chain in centimeters.  Students worked together to convert the centimeters into millimeters and meters. 

Tomorrow we will complete part 3 and 4 of the handout.  Part 3 is to create a graph of the data.  I have asked the students to construct a stem and leaf plot of the data, since this is a new graph for our 5th graders.  
After they have graphed the data, part 4 is to analyze the data.  Students will find Range, Median, Mean and Mode of their classroom data.  

I love STEM and I love how our kids thrive in this type of environment.  I can't wait to do more STEM challenges! 

Let me know if you try this is your classroom! I would love to hear how it went! 
Peace, Love, Math- Jennifer 


  1. Thank you for sharing! I especially love that you shared your copy of the handout! Great resource...thanks=)

  2. Thank you for sharing your handout...I am planning to do this with my 5th/6th blended bunch. I know they will LOVE it!

  3. This is a great activity in which the students should be able to come with different strategies and then compare with the other groups. Thank you.