Number Sense and Computation: Soak It Up

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In this math lesson, learners compare products to determine the best product. Learners participate in a role playing activity where they assume the role of business executives who must decide which of three prototypes of paper towels would be the best buy for consumers. Learners use problem solving strategies to find the best value in terms of cost and then conduct experiments to test the absorbency of the three prototypes. In their testing procedures, learners find the surface area of the stain as they drop water into the center of a paper towel and then use a transparent grid to measure the area of the stain. Learners then analyze the results of their absorbency test and the cost factors to determine which towel is the best value.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
      • Polygons
    • Number and Operations
    • Reasoning and Proof
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Financial Literacy


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, PBS, 2012

Funding Source:

  • US Department of Education