Understanding Scale: Powers of Ten
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The classic film “Powers of Ten” is often employed to catalyze the building of more accurate conceptions of scale, yet its effectiveness is largely unknown. This study examines the impact of the film on students’ concepts of size and scale. Twenty-two middle school students and six science teachers participated. Students completed pre- and post-intervention interviews and a Scale Card Sorting (SCS) task; all students observed the film “Powers of Ten.” Experienced teachers’ views on the efficacy of the film were assessed through a short written survey. Results showed that viewing the film had a positive influence on students’ understandings of powers of ten and scale. Students reported that they had more difficulty with sizes outside of the human scale and found small scales more difficult to conceptualize than large scales. Students’ concepts of relative size as well as their ability to accurately match metric sizes in scientific notation to metric scale increased from pre- to post-viewing of the film. Experienced teachers reported that the film was a highly effective tool. Teachers reported that the design of the film that allowed students to move slowly from the human scale to the large and small scales and then quickly back again was effective in laying the foundation for understanding the different scales.
Keywordsscale measurement technology.
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