Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Candy Coated Biology: An Activity to Teach Surface Area-to-Volume Ratios

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Candy Coated Biology: An Activity to Teach Surface Area-to-Volume Ratios

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

M&M[R] candy can be used to teach an important scientific principle. As a confirmed "chocoholic," I was amused when the mini-M&M[R]s appeared in stores. Upon sampling, I immediately noticed the mini-M&M[R]s had less chocolate center, so the candy coating felt "crunchier" when I bit into them. But not until the mega-M&M[R]s arrived in stores did I realize my beloved candies could be used to teach an important biological concept, that of surface area-to-volume ratio. From the cristae of mitochondria, to the ruffled borders of osteoclasts, to the sizes of animals in different habitats, this concept can be tested, measured, and learned in an effective manner using M&M[R] candies.

Procedure

I use large bags of each of the three sizes of M&M[R]s (mini, regular, and mega). Wearing plastic gloves, I put a spoonful of each size into a paper muffin cup--one muffin cup per student (Figure 1). Working in groups of three or four, students are instructed to use all their senses and to think mathematically about a relationship between surface area and volume. Meanwhile I circulate around the classroom, ask "leading" questions, or answer student inquiries. I am surprised how often I must encourage students to observe the candy by eating * an M&M[R] of each size.

Suggestions for Classroom Use

Although I use this as a short interactive activity in an introductory college biology class, this exercise could be used in a more comprehensive manner at the secondary level to teach students how to design experiments, take measurements (e.g., use calipers), compile data using significant figures, calculate elementary statistics, and draw conclusions. …

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