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Reaction Time and Practice

A Carolina Essentials™ Activity

Overview

Use this short, engaging activity to introduce students to reflexes and reactions, the nervous system, or learning theory. Students work in pairs on 2 different sorting tasks and time their successive attempts. Data can be analyzed by an individual student, student pairs, or at the class level, depending on the time available. If the class size is very large, 3 to 4 students can be selected as test subjects to complete the sorting tasks.

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Teacher Notes
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Student Worksheet
Grade & Discipline
6-12

Life Science
Recommended for grades 6-12.

Time Requirements
Prep10 min
Activity15-20 min

Teacher Prep time: 10 min
Student Activity: 15-20 min

Overview

Use this short, engaging activity to introduce students to reflexes and reactions, the nervous system, or learning theory. Students work in pairs on 2 different sorting tasks and time their successive attempts. Data can be analyzed by an individual student, student pairs, or at the class level, depending on the time available. If the class size is very large, 3 to 4 students can be selected as test subjects to complete the sorting tasks.

Save & Print
Teacher Notes
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Student Worksheet

Essential Question

What factors affect reaction time?

Activity Objectives

  1. Identify reaction times for 2 card sorting activities.
  2. Determine if practice and complexity of task influence reaction time.

Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS)

Science and Engineering Practices

Developing and Using Models

  • Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS1.A: Structure and Function

  • Feedback mechanisms maintain a living system's internal conditions within certain limits and mediate behaviors, allowing it to remain alive and functional even as external conditions change within some range. Feedback mechanisms can encourage (through postitve feedback) or discourage (negative feedback) what is going on inside the living system.

Crosscutting Concepts

Systems and System Models

  • Models (e.g., physical, mathmatical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

Safety and Disposal

Ensure that students understand and adhere to safety practices. Know and follow all federal, state, and local regulations as well as school district guidelines for the disposal of laboratory wastes. Students should not eat, drink, or chew gum in the lab and should wash their hands after entering and before exiting the lab.

Procedures

Place a deck of cards and timer at each student station. If not using timers, ensure each pair of students has access to a smartphone or classroom clock.

Student Procedures

Sort 1/Student 1—Color

Teacher Preparation and Tips

Student:

Teacher:

  1. The subject holds a deck of shuffled playing cards face down.

Before handing out decks of cards to students, count to ensure all cards are present.

  1. The observer starts the timer and tells the subject to begin.

To save time, place cards on student desks or tables prior to the activity.

  1. The subject turns over the playing cards, one at a time, and places them in a red pile or a black pile, depending on the color of the card.

  1. After all the cards have been classified, the observer stops the timer and records the trial time on the data table.

Talk about precision of measurement and the use of timers. You may want to agree to time to the tenths decimal place or whole seconds. Make sure students are being consistent.

  1. The subject shuffles the cards and repeats the procedure twice.

Sort 2/Student 2—Suit

  1. The second subject holds the deck of cards face down.

You may project an online timer if individual timers or smartphones are not available.

  1. The observer starts the timer and tells the subject to begin.

  1. The subject turns over the playing cards, one at a time, and separates them into 4 piles according to suit: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.

One student completes 3 sorts of the same trial.

  1. After all the cards have been classified, the observer stops the timer and records the trial time on the data table.

If time permits, every student can complete 3 trials of each sort and analyze a class data set.

  1. The subject shuffles the cards and repeats twice.

Have students count the cards in the deck before returning them.

Data and Observations

Sort Time 1 (s) Time 2 (s) Time 3 (s)
Color
Suit

Student answers will vary but 2 trends should be evident. Practice and additional trials should reduce the time for sorting. Sorting by suit should take more time since the task is more complex.

Analysis and Discussion

  1. Describe, step-by-step, the reaction process necessary to sort the deck of cards by color.

    First, your eyes must see the card. The message that the card is red or black must then be sent by the optic nerve to the brain. The thalamus within the diencephalon of your brain then processes the information, allowing you to discriminate separate colors, and sends a message back to your arm muscles, telling them to move. Your muscles then contract and relax, and you sort the cards by color.

  2. Describe, step-by-step, the reaction process necessary to sort the deck of cards by suit.

    The process is the same as above, but there are 4 pieces of information to be interpreted. Color discrimination may take place first and then shape discrimination allows for sorting into 4 piles.

  3. Based on the steps listed above, which reaction was more complex? Does the time data support your answer? Explain why or why not.

    Sorting by suit is more complex. It should take more time to sort into 4 piles because 4 different shapes must be interpreted by the brain.

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, these products.