Math = Love: Significant Figures Speed Dating Activity

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Significant Figures Speed Dating Activity

My physical science students are currently working on determining the correct number of significant figures to use in different situations.  The first step is for them to be able to recognize how many significant figures there are in a number.  I made posters to hang up in my classroom for them (and me!) to reference, but I also wanted to create an activity to get them up and moving about.  I decided this was the perfect topic to make into a speed dating activity.  

You can find the files for my significant figures posters here.

To create cards for the speed dating activity, I typed up 20 numbers into a Publisher file.

I tried to include numbers written in scientific notation and numbers written in standard form.  Then, I designed the file to print the correct number of significant figures on the back of the card when printed double sided .

I printed them on pretty orange cardstock (affiliate link) and laminated them at school with my always trusty Scotch brand laminator (affiliate link).  

Here are what the front of the cards looked like when I was finished. 

And the backs of the cards:

And, I hope there weren't any mistakes on the cards because I was sort of in a rush to get them made.  I thought I would have plenty of time to get them typed and printed before school started, but I didn't account for kids coming in to get help on making up their quizzes!  So, if you do see an error, let me know so I can fix it!  

The purpose of speed dating is to meet as many people in as short an amount of time as possible.  In the few minutes you spend with the other person, you want to find something out about them and you want to trade information in case you decide to pursue things further in the future.  At least that's what I've gathered from watching speed dating on tv and in movies.  I never actually went speed dating myself...

Here's how speed dating works in my classroom:

Hand each kid a card.  I hand them out with the question facing up.  I instruct kids to figure out how many significant figures are in the number on their card and to check their answer with the back of the card.  

Tell kids how speed dating works.  When you tell them to get up, they should find a partner.  Each partner should hold up their card for the other person to see.  Each person should tell the other person how many significant figures they think they have.  If correct, praise them.  If incorrect, coach them.  After both cards have been answered and discussed, the partners should trade cards.  Then, they should go and find a new partner.  This continues until the teacher calls stop.  (Bonus points for stopping kids by ringing a bell like actual speed dating!)  

Let them go!  Your job as the teacher is to watch and observe the conversations.  Look for the questions that students find tricky.  Listen to how students are explaining the concept to each other.  

Or, you might end up like me and have to participate yourself.  My physical science class had an odd number of students the day we did this, so I got to play along, too!  (This is also the reason why I don't have any pictures of my students in action.)  You'll just have to settle for pics of the cards.  :)  

I've also used speed dating in the past to practice switching between exponential and logarithmic form and naming polynomials.  

You can find the files for this significant figures speed dating activity here.  The font is Wellfleet.  


  1. Thanks for this explanation of your speed dating activity! I've wanted to try it but wasn't quite clear on the process. Now I get it, and I think it's very adaptable to German. Thank you!

    1. Saw your blog post about trying it out. So glad it worked for you!