Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Confusing Colors!

Kevin Holland
Santa Rosa District Schools


This is a neat data analysis project in which students collect data, graph their data, and then make predictions based upon their findings. The student's interest is maintained by the interesting way the data is collected.


Describes, analyzes and generalizes relationships, patterns, and functions using words, symbols, variables, tables and graphs.

Represent real-world problem situations using finite graphs, matrices, sequences, series, and recursive relations

Interprets data that has been collected, organized, and displayed in charts, tables, plots.


-Overhead Projector
-Overhead Transparency
-Overhead Markers (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Orange, Black, etc)
-3 stop watches/timers


1. Obtain 3 stop watches.
2. Copy class set of worksheets.
3. Obtain class set of rulers.
4. Obtain overhead and transparencies, if needed.
5. Construct two transparencies. One transparency will be matching colors. The other transparency will be non-matching colors. On each transparency, write 4 lists of words of length 5, 10, 15 and 20 words according to the transparency. Matching will have ink matching the color word. Non-matching will have ink not matching the color word.


This is an exciting activity involving data analysis. It is expected that students have had some instruction in plotting data, finding slopes, lines of best fit, and finding linear equations. The data collection experiment is from the psychology work of J.R. Stroop.

1. Pass out worksheets to each student.

2. Work through the line of best fit problem as an introductory problem. (See Associated File) Work together as a class or have students work through it individually.

3. With the class, read through the section entitled: Things You Should Understand Before You Start, found in the Associated File.
A) Each person looks at a list of color words red, green, black, . . .. Each list varies in length and each word will be written in color.
B) Students will be asked to say the -color of the ink- for each word as quickly as possible. Time will be recorded.
C) Use two different lists: Matching and Non-Matching. The matching list has the color words in the appropriate color. (i.e. blue is actually blue ink, and green is actually green ink. The non-matching are not.)
D) Use three different timers just to control any errors and find the average of the three times.
E) Keep track of the word list lengths and corresponding times below.

4. Select volunteers from the class to participate in the data collection. It is more exciting to bring in members of the faculty to participate in the data collection.

5. Have volunteers stand outside until their turn.

6. When a volunteer comes in, have that person read aloud each list of matching colors saying the color of the ink. Record the time for each list. Each volunteer will read a list of 5, 10, 15, and 20 words. When the volunteer has finished each list, record the length of time. Show only one list at a time. Keep the other lists covered.

7. Repeat the procedure with the non-matching colors, recording the time for each list.

8. Once you are finished, write the times on the board and let the class average the three times.

9. Have students work through the worksheet.

10. Circulate around the room offering assistance where

11. Once the students are finished, discuss making predictions based on your equations. Discuss real-world settings and limitations.

12. Summarize the activity and collect worksheets.


Student worksheets should be formatively assessed. Remember that the lines constructed on student papers are generalized and some students may have a different line and equation than your answer key. Students may also be scored using the grading rubric provided. Students who need additonal help should be given feedback at this time.


Other experiments can be used to give students practice on lines of best fit and data collection. Check with the physics and advanced math teachers in the school for ideas on data. There are also some great web sites with ideas and lesson plans. For extra credit, have students design and implement experiments where data is collected and analysis is completed.

Web Links

Web supplement for Confusing Colors!
Making the Connections, Patterns, and Relations

Web supplement for Confusing Colors!
The Wave

Attached Files

A student worksheet and grading rubric.     File Extension: pdf

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