Statistics: Something Fishy

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In this math lesson, learners apply the concepts of ratio and proportion to the capture-recapture statistical procedure. Learners are given containers (the bay) and an unknown number of fish-shaped cheese crackers to use in simulating the capture-recapture method. Learners net the fish-shaped cheese crackers and substitute fish-shaped pretzels to simulate tagged fish. Learners then take samples and record the number of tagged fish and the total number of fish. After several samples are taken, results from each group are recorded. Learners apply their knowledge of proportion to arrive at the total fish population. This activity relates to the decline in fish populations in the Chesapeake Bay.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 large container
  • 300-350 fish-shaped cheese crackers
  • 30-40 fish-shaped pretzel crackers
  • 1 small aquarium fish net
  • 1 plate


  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
    • Number and Operations
      • Fractions
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Food and Cooking
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • 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