Longest Paper Chain: An Easy STEM Challenge Students Love! | Math Chick

Longest Paper Chain: An Easy STEM Challenge Students Love!

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. This STEM Challenge asks for students to create the longest paper chain out of one piece of construction paper. Super easy and super engaging!

The Great Chain race STEM Challenge using one piece of paper to make the longest chain
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 members.  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 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

Longest Paper Chain Procedure

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. You could also complete the remainder of the handout on the next day. You could have the paper chain building on one day and save the actual math calculations and graph building for the next day.

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 paper chain.
                                         Students choose different ways to create the longest paper chain out of one sheet of paper Students choose different ways to create the longest paper chain out of one sheet of paper  

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.
STEM Challenge longest paper chain results in a real life bar graph of paper chains

Students measured each paper chain that was created in the STEM Challenge. Students measured in centimeters and then converted the centimeters into millimeters. 

Students measure the paper chains they create in the longest paper chain STEM challenge

Students also created a bar graph of the paper chain data as well as solving range, median and mode questions. The beauty of this Paper Chain STEM challenge is that it can be adapted to any grade level. It is so easy and so low prep that it can be done at any time! 

I love STEM and I love how our kids thrive in this type of environment.  STEM challenges are one of my favorite Engagement Strategies for my Math Classroom! 

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.

  4. This looks fun. Thank you so much for sharing your resources!

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