FREEBIE: Back to Square 1-4-5 (Scientific Knowledge and a Double Square Puzzle)

Grade Levels
6th - 12th, Higher Education, Staff
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11 pages
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Start the Science class with one (1) square. It's simple, because one square is unambiguous. But then challenge students to take four (4) polygons and arrange them together to make a square shape. A-ha! That's trickier. Like Science, there can be many hypothesis on how they fit together, but the best solution solves the puzzle. If it doesn't work, it's back to square one.

This lab activity gets students/student teams to think about the nature of science, and also, to show the importance of being an active participant in the learning process. Ss should realize that science is dynamic, and it changes as knowledge of a subject increases. Because there's a final challenge: integrate all five (5) polygon pieces from the previous puzzles together to make a super-square -- just like when a new piece of evidence emerges from experimentation and has to be included in any scientific explanation.

This resource uses a puzzle which includes five interfitting pieces, four of which can form a square and all five of which can be fit together collectively form a larger square. Just copy, cut out, give to kids to crack the puzzles, and let the class consider how scientific knowledge is open to revision in the light of new evidence.

And as an in-class example, I've adapted the Question Exploration on What Helps Proves Post-Pangaea Plate Tectonics. Wegener's Puzzling Continental Drift Evidence is a great case study to have students grasp the concept of how scientists look for clues.

This Content Enhancement Routines are classroom tested to help students with the following Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in Science:

  • SC.7.N.2.1 Identify an instance from the history of science in which scientific knowledge has changed when new evidence or new interpretations are encountered.
  • SC.7.N.3.1 Recognize and explain the difference between theories and laws and give several examples of scientific theories and the evidence that supports them.
  • SC.8.N.3.2 explain why theories may be modified but are rarely discarded
  • SC.912.N.1.2: Describe and explain what characterizes science and its methods.
  • SC.912.N.1.3: Recognize that the strength or usefulness of a scientific claim is evaluated through scientific argumentation, which depends on critical and logical thinking, and the active consideration of alternative scientific explanations to explain the data presented.
  • SC.912.N.1.6: Describe how scientific inferences are drawn from scientific observations and provide examples from the content being studied.
  • SC.912.N.1.7: Recognize the role of creativity in constructing scientific questions, methods and explanations.
  • SC.912.N.2.4 Explain that scientific knowledge is both durable and robust and open to change. Scientific knowledge can change because it is often examined and re-examined by new investigations and scientific argumentation. Because of these frequent examinations, scientific knowledge becomes stronger, leading to its durability.
  • SC.912.N.3.1 Explain that a scientific theory is the culmination of many scientific investigations drawing together all the current evidence concerning a substantial range of phenomena; thus, a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer.
  • SC.912.N.3.2 Describe the role consensus plays in the historical development of a theory in any one of the disciplines of science.

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Total Pages
11 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
30 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.


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