2007-03-16 / Columnists

Drawing On Science

How Good Are You At Elementary School Science?
Commentary by Stephen Yaeger

A new quiz show premiered on TV called "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader."

The adult contestant has a choice of having one of six ten-year olds to compete against. Questions are shown on a large screen and the contestant has to answer them either on his own or he can "cheat" by copying or peeping at the kid's answer. If the adult misses out or chooses to "drop out of school" he/she must tell the millions of TV viewers that "I am not smarter than a fifth grader."

Now, I must admit that I prefer not to watch quiz shows. I find that if I do know the answers, I can't get them out in time. This makes it somewhat frustrating for me 'competing' against the contestants. But if I were a contestant on this particular show, how hard can it be to win out over a bunch of ten-year old kids; especially when the questions are based on first to fifth grade topics? The questions can't be that hard - can they?

So, I watched the show and answered the questions. But because I am a former teacher and columnist for this paper I must make full disclosure: I am not smarter than a fifth-grader. I messed up on two questions during one of the shows. One concerned the amount of teaspoons in a tablespoon (yeah, okay, so it's three not two) and I bombed out on the other because I exchanged an "e" for the "i" in allegiance . Hey, it happens! In any case I answered all of the other questions correctly.

There were, however, two questions, which were technically wrong to begin with. One question referred to the Periodic Table of Elements where it was asked what the symbol NA stood for. It was answered correctly as sodium, but it does not appear like that on the Table and no chemist writes it like that. It is recognized as Na... the first letter of elements is always capitalized and the second is always in lower case. Okay so I'm being too technical.

But, if one is to learn something at least it should be taught the correct way. How about the number of states of the US that border the Pacific Ocean? The key word here is 'border.' The answer was given as 4 (Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska). But according to the show's host, the correct answer should have been 5... Hawaii is the fifth state bordering the Pacific Ocean. I mulled over this question as I knew the five states associated with or touching the Pacific. Note: I wrote associated not bordering. I didn't consider Hawaii as 'bordering' the ocean in the same context as the other four states since it is a series of islands completely surrounded by the Pacific. This is why such questions should be written/ asked clearly and why, at times, I find some of them sort of tricky to answer.

Now, I have some questions for the reader. Do you know your elementary school science? Are you as smart in science as a fifth grader? See if you can answer the following without looking at the answers; however, if you really need help ask a kid in elementary school. By the way there are no tricky questions here.

1.All animals require food, water and _______.

2.True or false: Penguins live only in Antarctica.

3. Concerning plants, which comes first, pollination or germination?

4.What is the function of a butterfly larva?

5.True or false: A tornado starts as a small area of low pressure inside a thunderhead.

6.When water changes from liquid to gas, what is it called?

7.What are the four components studied to predict weather?

8.What do we call a great winter storm usually with snow?

9.Which is the closest star to the Earth?

10.What is the importance of mitochondria?

11.Rain, snow and sleet are forms of what?

12.What is meant by 'mass'?

13.Which one of the following doesn't belong in the group? beetle, ant, spider, bee, termite, butterfly, flea

14.What is the function of a plant's cell wall?

15.What is the state of matter that has no definite shape but takes up a definite amount of space?

16.The smallest particle of matter is?

17.Where do cells come from?

18.What comes between the leaves and roots of a plant?

19.True or false: Most fossils are composed of bone.

20.Why does the Earth look blue when seen from outer space?

21.If you are standing on the beach in NYC at exactly 12 noon, in what compass direction is your shadow pointing?

22.True or false: A tomato is a fruit.

23.True or false: Sound travels faster through a liquid than it does through a gas.

24.Polaris is the name of what star?

25.What animal is the largest land carnivore living today?

Answers: 1. shelter; 2. false;

3. pollination; 4. eating; 5. true;

6. evaporation; 7. moisture, clouds, air currents, pressure; 8. a blizzard; 9. the sun; 10. supplies energy to the cell; 11. water; 12. amount of

matter; 13. a spider, it's not an insect; 14. support and protection;

15. a gas; 16. an atom; 17. other cells; 18. a stem; 19. false, most are mineralized; 20. oceans/atmosphere reflect the blue of the color spectrum; 21. north; 22. true; 23. true;

24. the north star; 25. polar bear

Stephen Yaeger is available for school presentations through The Rockaway Museum.

Questions/comments? E-mail Steve: Drawing onscience@aol. com

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