Box Plots with Paper Airplanes: An Engaging Statistics Activity

At the end of the year in statistics, seniors require a little more energy to keep them engaged. I have a few activities I use to review for their final exam and this box plots with paper airplanes activity is one they always enjoy. This activity is also perfect for younger students learning about box plots for the first time.

Building Paper Airplanes

First off, I have to say I was shocked at how few students (seniors in high school!) did not know how to build a basic paper airplane. That was fine because I gave a little spill about origami and paper folding. When I attended the 2012 NCTM conference in Philadelphia, PA, I was inspired to incorporate origami in my classroom after sitting in a session about origami in the math classroom.  I purchased this book the following school year and have referenced it often since then.

The directions I gave my students were simple: Build a paper airplane that you believe will fly the farthest. 

I allowed them to only use one piece of white copy paper. Students could cut the paper to be smaller, but they could not add anything else to it except a little tape. 

I allowed my students to research and follow directions online. If you do not want your students to scour the internet, then you can print directions for a few designs. This paper airplane kit is also fun and contains easy to follow directions – I purchased it for my boys for Christmas one year. 

Have fun and decorate them! My students named and colored them.

Box plots with paper airplanes

Airplane Throw

We went to the hallway and I marked off the throw line with a piece of painters tape. Students took turns throwing their airplanes and we calculated the flight distance. 

Fortunately, at my school, the floor tiles are 1 square foot. I marked off every 10 feet with a piece of painters tape and wrote the distance on it. This allowed for a quick flight calculation. The flight distance ended when the airplane hit the ground.

Students got three throws and we recorded the average of all three. That way, if they had a bad throw it would even out. 

Next, we recorded their data on a google form. This allowed me to quickly calculate the class average by linking the responses to a Google form. <Click here to make a copy of the Google form I used!>

Looking for a list of helpful math resources?

You don’t want to miss out on this Google Slides Binder.

Box Plot Data

After students completed the Google form, they placed a dot on a dot plot.

We constructed the box plot together after they finished their worksheet so they could check their work. 

<Click here to make a copy of the worksheet I used.>

I hope this box plots with paper airplanes activity that will work in your class and your students enjoy. Let me know in the comments if you try it and how it goes.

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