5th Graders Complete Engineering Challenge

5th Graders Complete Engineering Challenge


Reese Lindley, Shay Jones, Brandi Putman

MMS Journalism Department        


Now, usually, when someone says the word “stem” the first thing that comes to mind is a plant, but when it comes to academics, it could mean something totally different. The 5th graders recently completed an activity to explore STEM- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math all in one project.

The students were required to build a structure with plastic cups, popsicle sticks, and wooden blocks. To add to the challenge, the teachers limited the number of supplies the students were given (20 plastic cups, 25 popsicle sticks, and 10 wooden blocks) and placed a time limit of 10 minutes on the activity. “This helps the students with problem-solving and makes them think deeper, which is something the students struggle with,” according to 5th-grade math teacher Mrs. Anna Joyner.

The project addressed 5th-grade Mathematical Process Standards that describe ways students are expected to engage with content and demonstrate mathematical understanding. The Texas Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) statements this project covered include:


(A)  apply mathematics to problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace;

(B)  use a problem-solving model that incorporates analyzing given information, formulating a plan or strategy, determining a solution, justifying the solution, and evaluating the problem-solving process and the reasonableness of the solution;

(C)  select tools, including real objects, manipulatives, paper and pencil, and technology as appropriate, and techniques, including mental math, estimation, and number sense as appropriate, to solve problems;

(D)  communicate mathematical ideas, reasoning, and their implications using multiple representations, including symbols, diagrams, graphs, and language as appropriate;

(E)  create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas;

(F)  analyze mathematical relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas; and

(G)  display, explain, and justify mathematical ideas and arguments using precise mathematical language in written or oral communication.


“The project was really fun and working with a partner made it even better,” said 5th grader Lexy Ballard. Emily Clark and Luckas Busby’s project was very unique.  Lukas had an idea that involved a flat base with popsicle sticks under it so the desk and cups do not have as much friction. Also, the flat base gave the building more balance. Others were not as lucky as Clark and Busby. For example, Kaitlyn Wood and her partner Jerik Joyner said, “It was really frustrating when our tower kept falling 20 times in a row, but all in all it was really fun and the teamwork was really fun, too.”